St Margaret Declaration: We are brothers and sisters in Christ

Here is the homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley, delivered at a service in Dunfermline Abbey, to mark the official signing of the St Margaret Decalaration of Friendship between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland.


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

First of all, let me thank the Reverend MaryAnn Rennie for her gracious invitation to address a few words to you on this happy occasion.

Today, we gather in the City of Dunfermline, first and foremost to remember St Margaret on her feast day.  In her, we honour a woman who is fairly well known to us thanks to her biographer, who was also her confessor.

Unlike, say Columba or Cuthbert, she doesn’t have the aura of a distant Celtic myth about her.  The picture we have of her is very real, somehow much more up to date.

We know just what she was like so, even at this distance, we can honour her goodness, her strength of character, her patience, her mercy, her determination, her sense of justice, her holiness.

And we come here today to learn from her, for our own sake, and for that of our Church and of our nation.  We hold her memory dear, and we pledge ourselves to work as she did for the peace and prosperity of our land.

Although she lived 950 years ago, Margaret’s positive and life-giving impact upon our country’s political, social and spiritual life can still be felt, to this day.

Power of goodness

This immediately teaches us several things: that the power of goodness and holiness must never be underestimated; that leadership is a call to service of others, not of self; that love and mercy really do last forever; and that one good person can make a difference.

The selfless, benign, beautiful example of St Margaret and her continuing influence upon us is a simple proof of all those things.

We continue to underestimate the power of goodness; we think it often looks weak and disarmed; but simple goodness can change people’s hearts, even if it’s something that is sometimes hidden from sight.  Goodness is its own reward, although it may not be a reward that is immediately seen or felt.

We casually lament the quality of leadership in our days. Compared to other times and places, though, there are many fine people who enter public life for the right reasons, and who genuinely succeed in serving their fellow citizens; but, too often, good ideals are made to give way to the democratic imperative to get elected first, and then compromises take the place of what is truly right and just and good.

Occasionally, however, one person makes a difference, one person in the right place and time changes the game.  Queen Margaret was such a person.

Providence sent her to Scotland and a transformation of our land started under her good and gentle guidance.  So, we honour her goodness, her strength of character, her patience, her mercy, her determination, her sense of justice, her holiness.

We honour her by imitating those virtues, and by praying the good Lord for a double share of her spirit for ourselves and for our whole land.

One of the things she and her sons set out to do was to connect, or to reconnect, old Christian Scotland with the rest of the continent, to drag it, as it were, into the 11th century. Poland had converted to Christianity in 966; Kievan Rus had done so in 988; St Stephen, the king of Hungary and St Margaret’s grandfather, had converted to Christianity in 1000 AD; and by 1070, the date we are remembering today, a great movement of social and religious reform was under way throughout Europe.

Embracing the faith

So, as Margaret grew up in the Hungarian court, she was influenced by the joy and enthusiasm of people newly embracing the faith.  But she was also an English Saxon Princess, and her father’s side came from people who had been Christian for centuries.

Most date the beginnings of Saxon Christianity to the arrival of St Augustine at Canterbury in 597.  Augustine had been sent from Italy to England by Pope Gregory the Great, and although Christianity was already thriving in Britain and Ireland, it was solidly reinforced by Augustine’s arrival.

Those of us who learn of these things will acknowledge that there is a lot more to the story than that, but that’s enough for now: I give you this simple version of the event, in order to imagine What if… What if Margaret wished to bring the monks from Canterbury here for the same reasons?

She was a Saxon, so were they; they had strong links to the continental church, so did they; like Margret, they might have felt distinctly uncomfortable at the arrival of the Normans in Kent; and there may also have been ties of kinship and affection, now lost to us, that would have made the request to them - by this Anglo-Saxon princess, now the Queen of Scots – a more attractive prospect.

In any case, they accepted the invitation, and the rest, as they say, is history. The silken threads that bind us together were bound then too, and they were quietly reinforced by blood, and friendship, and faith.

These were living links between real people, and the border between the Scots and the English was, once again, overstepped and softened by genuine ties of faith and kinship and affection.

And if we think this is all ancient history and far from us today, we need only look to the presence of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal here with us, or to the monks of Pluscarden Abbey near Elgin, alive and well today, who trace their ancestry to the monks of this very priory.  In their different ways, they, like us, are a living link to the memory of what was founded here 950 years ago.

And as if that weren’t enough, we will shortly do something that will, I hope, help to build and consolidate those bonds I’ve just outlined.

The Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland look to the pre-Reformation history of the Church here as a part of their shared heritage.  This is something that they, along with the Scottish Episcopal Church, have long acknowledged, but they have never done so together, or in public.

Christian heritage

The international ecumenical movement, widely acknowledged to have begun in Edinburgh in 1910, took many decades to have its impact, and it was only in the 1980s that the churches in Scotland, heirs to the Christian heritage here, started to talk to each other more seriously, to pray and to act in common.

And they started – as everyone in the ecumenical movement did – by looking at what divides these ancient institutions, and in their initial enthusiasm tried to work towards an institutional union like that seen before the 16th century.  And they found it difficult.  Very difficult.  And very tiring.

And yet, at the same time, others were starting to approach the matter from a different direction. In 2010, I sat in Westminster Abbey and listened to Pope Benedict say to the Archbishop of Canterbury, before an abbey full of Christian leaders from all over the UK, that we have more in common than that which divides us.  This bears repeating: we have more in common than that which divides us.

It was a sentiment I hoped was true, and perhaps worth exploring.  And I began to wonder, if it’s true – and it feels sort of true - what would it actually look like?  What if, instead of chasing down all the differences that have accrued over nearly five centuries, we were to write down what we have in common instead?

How would it be if we were to start from what we both hold dear, what we both treasure in our common heritage, and write that down instead?  It needn’t be an exhaustive list, it needn’t be complicated.  The only thing then to be sought would be the political will to go and look. Anyway, I returned to my work abroad, and put these thoughts to one side.

But then in 2013 I was sent back to Scotland, and to Edinburgh.  I returned as the Catholic Archbishop for this area, and I was invited to attend the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  I’d never been before, and only knew vaguely what to expect. In terms of protocol and meetings and so on, it was fairly straightforward.

But something had changed while I had been away from Scotland (the previous twenty years), and the people attending the General Assembly let me see it.

The week before I was consecrated bishop, I was at St Andrews at a service and a minister walked up to me and said, “You’re the new archbishop, aren’t you?” She promptly gave me a big hug and then said, “I’m Lorna Hood, and I’m the Moderator of the General Assembly”.  Something had definitely changed while I was away… And at the following General Assemblies, I was made to feel ever more welcome.


So, these last forty years have been ones characterised by sincere theological dialogue, and we have arrived occasionally at agreement.  We have also learned to pray together as brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity every January.

And our people in their parishes now work together here and there in various charitable projects.

Above all, however, through our contacts over these last decades, something else has grown up, perhaps unnoticed: many on both sides have learned to become friends.  And that, given our shared history, isn’t nothing.

We all know the history that we share.  It contains much for us to regret, and it would be naïve to pretend it all away; but it’s a further reason to do something about it.  Given our context, then, a friendship that is the unlooked-for consequence of the last 40 years is something to be noticed, to be welcomed, and to be built upon.

As I said at this year’s General Assembly, in the presence of my friend the Moderator Dr Iain Greenshields, here with us today, the Declaration is also a consciously new approach to ecumenism, an attempt to re-imagine the path towards Christian unity.

Instead of listing our problems and points of friction or grievance, old or new, the Declaration chooses to focus on what we have in common, and to underline that we treasure together, so much that is inspiring and ancient, profound and beautiful.

It suggests that we might one day reach effective unity by means of a growing affective unity.  That’s just a clever way of saying greater unity achieved – at least in part - through greater friendship.

I would like to mention just some of the names of those involved in drawing up the Declaration, including Moderators Lord Jim Wallace and Iain Greenshields, Principal Clerks Drs George Whyte and Fiona Smith, ecumenical officer Dr Iain McPake, Convener of the Ecumenical Relations Committee Reverend Sandy Horsburgh, and several others who helped to shape the Declaration into its final form.  It was a great pleasure to work with them to achieve today’s goal.

Of course, it’s not all over just yet: we will continue to discuss and deepen our understanding of important points of division over our heritage; but, meantime, more importantly, we believe, already, here and now, that where two or three of us are gathered together in the Lord’s name, He is there in our midst.

We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We stand shoulder to shoulder before an unbelieving world.  And we wish to respect each other, to be a support to each other, and to do all we can, with patience and humility, to achieve the unity that the Lord prayed for.

And if St Margaret and the first men who came here nearly a thousand years ago were here with us now, I would like to think that they would welcome and approve of us setting out in this way, again, in friendship, to face the next thousand years, not as enemies or rivals, but as sisters and brothers - and friends in Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Leo Cushley, 16 November 2022.

Declaration of Friendship signed at Dunfermline Abbey

An historic declaration of friendship between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland was signed at Dunfermline Abbey this afternoon.

The St Margaret Declaration was formally endorsed during a special service to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the building.

It was signed by Dr Iain Greenshields, Archbishop Leo Cushley and Princess Anne.

Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, was in attendance along with around 300 invited guests from the local community, ecumenical partners, civic society and heritage organisations.

Named after the 11th century Scottish Queen who is buried in the abbey, the St Margaret Declaration is the culmination of years of ecumenical relationship building between the two Churches which recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

It was signed by ArchbishopLeo Cushley, who preached during the service, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and Princess Anne.

Stand alongside each other

Archbishop Cushley said: "The declaration is a consciously new approach to ecumenism, an attempt to re-imagine the path towards Christian unity.

"Instead of listing our problems and points of friction or grievance, old or new, the Declaration chooses to focus on what we have in common and underline that we treasure together, so much that is inspiring and ancient, profound and beautiful.

"We stand shoulder to shoulder before an unbelieving world and we wish to respect each other, to be a support to each other, and to do all we can to achieve the unity that the Lord prayed for.

"And if St Margaret and the first men who came here nearly a thousand years ago were here with us now, I would like to think that they would welcome and approve of us setting out in this way.

"In friendship, to face the next thousand years, not as enemies or rivals, but as sisters and brothers and friends in Jesus Christ."

Dr Greenshields said: "I am deeply honoured and privileged to be one of the signatories of the St Margaret's Declaration at Dunfermline Abbey in its 950th year and on St Margaret's Day.

"This new friendship agreement has been many years in the making and is aptly named after a Scottish Queen who was venerated for her missionary Christian faith and her kindness and generosity to poor people.

"The declaration reflects the steadfast desire of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland and the Church of Scotland to continue to journey together and to see the healing of division within our nation.

"I would want people across Scottish society to look at this new relationship between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church and take away a powerful message – there is more that unites us than divides us as we strive to be an ever more united Christian voice in this land.

"May the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ be in us and between us, may the living hope of the Gospel inspire us and may the deep, enduring, inspiring, renewing and eternal love of God in Jesus sustain us."

Unity and cooperation
Written by senior figures from both Churches, the declaration describes the Churches' shared beliefs, ‘rooted in the Apostles, Christ's first disciples,' and acknowledges a common heritage as Christians in Scotland.

It also recognises the divisions of the past, apologises for the hurt and harm caused and seeks to make amends, asserting ‘we repent and ask forgiveness of one other.'

It is accepted that some divisions between the Churches remain challenging and more work is needed on reconciliation and healing.

Nevertheless, both Christian denominations say that what they hold in common is far greater than what divides them, and they commit to continue working towards greater unity.

Princess Anne, who served as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly in 2017, was invited to the service as the patron of St Margaret's Chapel Guild at Edinburgh Castle.

Addressing the congregation, she said: "We have been able to celebrate St Margaret today and I think her legacy has helped to bring us this declaration and I thank you all for that.

"Once again, my congratulations on this significant anniversary for the abbey and for the city of Dunfermline but also underlining the importance of what you have signed up today."

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visited Dunfermline Abbey in 1972 to mark its 900th anniversary and King Charles and the Queen Consort were there last month.

The St Margaret Declaration can be read here. Main picture copyright Church of Scotland.

Event: Enjoy an advent concert by candlelight

The Schola Cantorum of St Mary's Cathedral is on tour this Advent!

The choir will perform three special concerts by candlelight, delivering beautiful festive choral music at the following churches:

  • FALKIRK St Francis Xavier's Church, Wednesday 7 December, 8pm.
  • KILSYTH St Patrick's Church, Saturday 10 December, 8pm.
  • DUNFERMLINE St Margaret's RC Church, Friday 16 December, 8pm.

Michael Ferguson, musical director of the Schola Cantorum, said: “These candlelit concerts will be peaceful and uplifting – an opportunity to escape the Christmas frenzy and enjoy some wonderful, atmospheric music from these special singers. All are welcome.”

Tickets: £5 standard or £10 family, available on the door or from Eventbrite


The Schola Cantorum is unique in the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, and is one of the few in the Catholic Church in Scotland existing principally to sing the repertoire of the historical treasury of sacred music to the highest possible standards in cathedral worship.

The ensemble not only embodies excellence in choral singing, but also a commitment to sharing the musical fruits of two millennia of Christian worship with the Catholic community and beyond.

The octet’s debut album, With Angels and Archangels, is out now.

St Margaret’s Pilgrimage looks ahead to 2021

The St Margaret’s Pilgrimage 2020 may be cancelled, but organisers are already planning to make next year’s event extra special.

The popular day, which draws pilgrims from across the country to Dunfermline, was set to take place on 07 June. However, like many big events, it has been called off due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Father Chris Heenan, of St Margaret’s Memorial Church, said: “We’re disappointed but not surprised to have had to cancel the event. We’re staying positive - our team of organisers will use this time to channel their energy and enthusiasm into putting together a fantastic programme for 2021.

“In the meantime, we can ask for the intercession of St Margaret as we pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in Scotland, where she is our patron saint. We pray especially for those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 at this time. May they rest in peace.”

Archbishop Leo Cushley said: “St Margaret’s Pilgrimage has become a key occasion for many people in Scotland to come together and thank God for the impact this wonderful saint continues to have through her example of faith, charity and leadership. I look forward to being in Dunfermline for its return in 2021.”

Pupils get creative to highlight life of St Margaret

Pupils at St Margaret’s Primary in Dunfermline got creative to highlight the life of the school’s patron saint.

They took part in an art competition for the annual St Margaret’s summer pilgrimage, which like many events, now looks set to be cancelled.

Before schools closed and before social distancing measures were introduced, primary 7 pupil Andreea Gavril displayed her winning image along with Yishi Tan and Adelle Keddie who were winners in the Powerpoint category. They each received a prize of book tokens. Camryn Cooke, a pupil at St Marie’s in Kirkcaldy, was also a winner with his drawing.

Father Chris Heenan, parish priest at St Margaret’s Catholic Church in Dunfermline, helped organise the competition along with Ian Moir, of the Fire Station Creative art gallery in the town.

Back row from left, Father Chris Heenan , Fraser Gillan, head of St Margaret’s Primary and Ian Moir, of Fire Station Creative. Front row from left: Yishi Tan, Andreea Gavril and Adelle Keddie.

Fr Chris said: “It’s good to get together to celebrate the work that the children have done. Not just the fantastic posters, but also the research into St Margaret’s life and her Hungarian roots in the Powerpoint presentations, which were very impressive.

“It highlighted how she looked after the people of this country and loved them. So at this time especially, we need St Margaret’s example, and the children have helped us learn from that.”

He added: “The prize of book tokens should come in handy for buying a good read while they’re absent from school.”

Archbishop Leo Cushley, who helped choose the winning entries, said: “Congratulations to the winners for their creative efforts and for helping highlight the life and good works of St Margaret.”

St Margaret, pray for us!

Q&A: Deacon William on his path to priesthood

Ahead of his ordination to the priesthood on Wednesday, Deacon William McQuillan speaks about his vocation journey...

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?
Getting started. It’s been a long journey. I first considered priesthood twenty-five years ago, in fact I first met the priest who will be vesting me at my ordination, Fr Chris Heenan, back when we were students together at seminary in Gillis, Edinburgh, which I attended for two years.

When did you decide to become a priest?
When I was at school Wallace High School in Stirling, but I resisted making any serious commitment to it until my late forties when I stopped giving myself excuses not to.

What did you do before studying for the priesthood?
Many different things over the years, mostly in hospitality and customer service, but immediately before going to seminary I was a postman in Dunfermline.

What’s been the best thing about living I Rome?
There are so many things - the history, food, culture and the international community in our college.  But mostly, it’s been the privilege of studying so close to our holy father Pope Francis who has been an important factor in my decision to become a priest.

Can you describe some of the best moments?
I've found myself in many unforgettable and unique situations over the four years there, like the opening of the Holy Door during the Year of Mercy jubilee in 2016 and meeting the Holy Father during the Scottish Bishops’ ad limina visit last year.

And the most challenging?
The way of life there can sometimes feel a little more disorganised but you get used to it. Also, having to compress a lot of studies and formation into four years, compared to the normal seven years for seminarians. Oh,and the mosquitoes!

What advice would you give to someone considering the priesthood?
It may seem strange coming from someone my age, but don't feel you have to wait forever until everything is 100% clear and certain about the future, just trust in God and make that leap of faith.

Deacon William McQuillan will be ordained to the priesthood at St Margaret's Church in Dunfermline on Wednesday 3rd July. He will serve as an assistant priest at St Francis Xavier's Church in Falkirk.

Pilgrims celebrate St Margaret in Dunfermline

Hundreds of pilgrims gathered in Dunfermline in Fife for the annual St Margaret's Pilgrimage on Sunday, 2 June.

Jean MacDonald, a parishioner at St Patrick's Church in Kilsyth, said: "Our parish priest, Father Daniel Doherty, drove the minibus to bring us up here today. It's nice to  see all the school children here as well - they are the future of the Church."

Her friend Patricia Campbell, who was attending the pilgrimage for the fourth time, added: "I came to enjoy the atmosphere. We've already visited St Margaret's Cave, it's very emotional."

Sam Begbie, from St Margaret's Church in Clydebank, said: "We're taking part in this procession to represent our parish. It's nice for the younger ones to see this kind of activity within the faith."

Cathie Keating, of Holy Cross Church in Croy, said: "I wanted to be part of the pilgrimage. I'm very proud to be Scottish and I wouldn't wanted to have missed it. It's my first time, and my oldest daughter's Confirmation name is Margaret of Scotland."

During the day pilgrims explored the numerous historic sites across the Fife town that are associated with St Margaret, Queen of Scots (1045-93).

Archbishop Leo Cushley led the procession through the town centre, carrying the holy relics of the saint, before pilgrims gathered for Holy Mass at St Margaret's RC Memorial Church.

In his homily, Archbishop Cushley praised the example of St Margaret's Christian action.

"She had the fire of someone newly converted to the faith and she put that faith into practice," he said, "In a time rougher than ours she achieved her goals with skill, energy and determination.

"But she did so, always informed by a strong faith in Christ and his power to save her, her family, and her adopted nation."

Following Holy Mass, many pilgrims had the opportunity to receive a blessing with the relic of St Margaret. To read the Archbishop's homily in full click here.

Celebrity support for St Margaret’s Pilgrimage 2019

Popular singer-songwriter Barbara Dickson has thrown her support behind the St Margaret’s Pilgrimage 2019 which will take place in her home town of Dunfermline, Fife, this Sunday, 2 June.

“I feel the event is of such importance to Dunfermline and Scotland, both spiritually and culturally," said Barbara, 30 May.

“I’m a native of the town and I’ve wanted to go for a long time...St Margaret is one of the most important women in Scottish history and her influence is still felt.”

The St Margaret's Pilgrimage 2019 promises to be a great day out for the family with the highlight of the event being the procession of the holy relic of St Margaret (1045-93) starting from the Louise Carnegie Gates at Pittencrieff Park at 2:15pm and making its way towards St Margaret’s Church for Holy Mass at 3pm. Pilgrims will be led through the streets by Lochgelly Brass Band and local pipers. The principle celebrant at Holy Mass will be Archbishop Leo Cushley. Meanwhile, Barbara Dickson will read a passage from Sacred Scripture. Following Mass, pilgrims are invited to receive the blessing of the relic.

“It will be an opportunity for us all to pray together, to pray for our country, our families and friends and to pray for the peace and prosperity of our land,” said Archbishop Cushley.

Notably, this year's pilgrimage will begin with a ecumenical service at Dunfermline Abbey which will be led by Archbishop Cushley along with the Reverend MaryAnn Rennie, Church of Scotland Minister of Dunfermline Abbey, and Father Christopher Heenan, parish priest at St Margaret’s Church.

“I’m delighted that St Margaret’s Pilgrimage will begin with a joint service in the Abbey," said Father Heenan, "Margaret is an exceptionally important figure to Dunfermline as well as the whole of Scotland so it is fitting that a celebration of her life is as inclusive as possible.”

Throughout the day, guides from Discover Dunfermline Tours will also be on hand to take people to visit local sites associated with St Margaret. Suitable for families and children, the tour will last around an hour and will include a visit to St Margaret’s shrine at the east end of Dunfermline Abbey, the base of Malcolm’s Tower, where Margaret and the royal household lived, and St Margaret’s Cave, which was her private place for prayer. For more information go to,