Archbishop: Help save voting rights for Church Reps

Parishioners and parents in Edinburgh are being asked to contact their councillors to prevent the removal of voting rights for Church Representatives.

Councillors at the City of Edinburgh Council will vote on a motion (addendum) which proposes the removal of voting rights of Church Representatives on its Education, Children and Families Committee later this month.

If this motion is carried it will pose a serious threat to the capacity of the Church to influence decisions regarding Catholic education and Catholic schools in Edinburgh. 

Positive contribution

Angela Campbell, the Church Rep for the Catholic Church in Edinburgh, said: "In my role I'm supporting and representing the parents who choose to send their children to the 18 schools in the city.

"Having the vote on matters which impact young people in the Catholic schools in Edinburgh is very important as it allows me to make a democratic and positive contribution to the decision making process on educational matters."

We believe that the current setup is fair and reasonable and gives us a voice.

Archbishop Leo Cushley said: "Angela's role ensures that the faith community has a say in decisions which affect our schools.

"It's an important job, so to remove her right to vote means she can't do that job effectively.

"We believe that the current setup is fair and reasonable and gives us a voice.

"Our request to councillors is not to remove the voice of faith communities so that we can continue to work with Edinburgh City Council in a spirit of openess and transparency and friendship."

What to do


Here is the postcard that will be available at all parishes in Edinburgh this weekend.

Watch the video on this issue above or on YouTube.

GALLERY: Leavers' Mass for primary pupils

Pupils from across the city of Edinburgh gathered at St Mary's Cathedral for Mass celebrated by Archbishop Cushley.

The annual Mass is for primary seven pupils preparing for their journey to Secondary school. Priests including Canon Jock Dalrymple, Canon Kenneth Owens and Fr Robert Taylor were also present.

The event was organised by the Head Teachers in the City of Edinburgh and Melissa Gavan and Margaret Barton, the education team for the Archdiocese.

Melissa, religious education advisor for primary schools, said: "It was a wonderful occasion. The children were a credit to their schools."

WATCH: School Christmas Gallery

Schools across the Archdiocese have put on nativity plays to retell the birth of Jesus as part of the celebration of our Catholic Faith.
We thank them for keeping Christ in Christmas, and for their festive charity initiatives to help those in need. We wish pupils, teachers, support staff & volunteers a happy, holy Christmas! Watch the video below or on YouTube.

GALLERY: 'Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit'

Archbishop Cushley has been visiting parishes all over the Archdiocese to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In the Sacrament "the Christian’s relationship with God is made stronger. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are strengthened: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In this way the Christian is equipped to become a better witness to Christ in the world".

"A bishop is the usual celebrant of the Sacrament of Confirmation. During the celebration he extends his hands over those to be confirmed and calls upon God to “send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide.”

"Then each person to be confirmed is anointed with chrism on the forehead as the bishop says: 'Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.' (More here).

Archbishop calls on parents to support new Catholic schools

Archbishop Cushley joined parishioners in Winchburgh on Sunday to support the building of two new Catholic schools in the town.

The Archbishop celebrated Mass with Fr Jeremy Bath and Fr John Agnew at St Philomena's before cutting a cake to mark the event.

He said: "Having visited the site last year, I am certain that it will be a fine building, so the next thing is to make it into a very fine Catholic school!

"That will depend to a large extend on its being used by Catholic mums and dads and young people, and its support by you, as well as the Catholics of Broxburn and Linlithgow, to ensure it gets off to the best start possible."


He added: "We have been very fortunate in having the support of the leader of West Lothian, Lawrence Fitzpatrick, and James Cameron, Head of Education: they have seen the need in our Catholic community, and I’m confident I speak for all of us when I say that I am very happy with this outcome."

The schools are part of West Lothian’s largest ever investment in education, a £60.7 million multi-schools project that will deliver Holy Family primary, Sinclair Academy, and the non-denominational Winchburgh Academy.

The primary school is due to open later this year, while the two high schools are scheduled to open in August 2023.


Sunday Mass at St Philomena's in Winchburgh, with Archbishop Cushley, Fr Jeremy Bath and Fr John Agnew.

Children preparing for their First Holy Communion were brought forward to recite the 'Our Father'.

Parishioners shared a cup of tea with Archbishop Cushley in the church hall after Mass (pic: John Muir).

Archbishop Cushley chats with a parishioner.

A cake marking the building of two new Catholic schools in Winchburgh.

Children help Archbishop Cushley cut the cake.

Parish priest Fr Jeremy Bath and Archbishop Cushley.

WATCH: Support on the Sacraments for teachers

We've been helping teachers in the Archdiocese prepare children for the Sacraments of First Holy Communion, Reconciliation and Confirmation...with help from our priests.

Our Education team delivered three Zoom presentations recently, featuring video presentations from Fr Jamie McMorrin Fr Kevin Douglas, and Fr Tony Lappin (below).

The presentations gave teachers a step-by-step walk-through of delivering sacramental preparation. It coincides with booklets recently published by the Archdiocese for schools.

The three sessions were delivered by Eileen Rafferty, RE advisor to primary schools, supported by Margaret Barton (secondary schools).

Eileen said, "We've had positive feedback and it was brilliant to bring teachers together on Zoom to show how we can support them so they in turn can assist pupils and parents. We are grateful to Frs Jamie, Kevin and Tony for providing brilliant video reflections."

GALLERY: Happy Christmas to our Catholic schools!

Happy Christmas to the Catholic school community in our Archdiocese from our Education Team. Thanks for keeping Christ in Christmas!

Silent Night performed by Anna and Maddy from the Schola Cantorum at St Mary's Cathedral. Accompanied by Michael Ferguson. CD album With Angels & Archangels is available to buy here.

A staggeringly intolerant attitude to our flourishing Catholic schools

The former deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders police has suggested that closing Catholic schools is the best way to tackle bigotry in Scotland. Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, responds.

Although Catholics account for around 16% of Scotland’s population, Catholic schools educate over 20% of our school children.

Why do so many parents who aren’t Catholic vote with their feet and choose a Catholic school for their child?

As the existence of Catholic schools hits the headlines again, it is for those who would deny this choice to explain why they are so keen to destroy one of Scotland’s educational successes and perhaps elaborate how in so doing they will create a more harmonious or tolerant society.

Scotland’s peculiar obsession with religious intolerance has been in the spotlight again recently following the offensive and ill-informed comments of a former police chief, who claimed that the existence of denominational schools are at the root of the problem and suggested that sectarianism and bigotry can best be tackled by closing Catholic schools.

There is not a shred of empirical evidence to back up such claims and conspicuously, none was offered.

This staggeringly intolerant attitude is symptomatic of a simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society.

Crucially, the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their religious beliefs is a universal human right, which many seem happy to crush with impunity.

To suggest that children who aren’t schooled together can never interact or relate harmoniously to one another in adult life is clearly absurd.

Taken to its extreme this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different countries or with different languages are doomed to perpetual strife as adults, since they didn't share a playground.

Sectarian, like racial, discrimination is not taught in schools but bred, through ignorance, in homes and spread through society at large.

Around Europe and across the world, Catholic schools exist and prosper in societies bereft of the bigotry and intolerance found here.

In reality, the historical religious divisions that still leave us tainted with sectarian bigotry, pre-date the existence of Catholic schools, so cannot have been created by them.

Ultimately, Scotland should be very wary of the self-indulgent delusion that sectarianism is a west of Scotland problem.

It exists across the country, as Crown Office hate crime statistics show, in almost exact proportion to the Catholic population of different areas.

The reason there are so few sectarian crimes committed in Aberdeenshire or Shetland is because there are so few Catholics against whom they might be perpetrated and not because these places are oases of tolerance.

Like racism, anti-Catholicism tends to be found where its targets are most numerous. Its absence elsewhere should not be conflated with geographically distinct virtue.

An edited version of this article was published in The Times on 18th September, 2019 (subscription required).

Read the Tom Wood article here.





Newly qualified teachers get together at Gillis

Newly qualified teachers at Catholic schools across the Archdiocese have been encouraged to be ‘ambassadors of Christ’.

They got together at the Gillis Centre in Edinburgh for a day of tips and guidance before Mass in St Margaret’s Chapel, celebrated by Archbishop Cushley.

He said: “It’s always a pleasure to welcome the newly graduated teachers who are going to work in our Catholic schools.

“It’s a chance to get to know them, to pray with them and help finalise their preparations for going out as ambassadors because, as far as we’re concerned, the most important thing they will do is be ambassadors for Christ.

“We look forward to supporting them in this important mission.”

The day was organised by Eileen Rafferty, RE advisor for schools, who said: “We looked at the Charter for Catholic Schools and the implications for their daily practice.

“It was important to highlight that the way we conduct ourselves and the example we set can be as important and influential to children and fellow staff as what we actually teach.

“The teachers gave positive feedback, saying the day helped enhanced their skills and increase their confidence and that’s what we in the St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese strive to do.”

We asked some of the new teachers what they most look forward to in their teaching vocation.

Catholic community unites to save education voting rights

Catholics are being urged to fight a Green Party proposal intended to strip the Catholic community of its voting rights on the City of Edinburgh’s Education Committee.

Archbishop Leo Cushley wants them to ask local councillors to show support and vote against the motion to ensure schools “continue to flourish”.

He warned that if it was passed, it would “effectively remove from the Church the ability to influence the running and direction of our Catholic schools”.

In a letter to be read out at Sunday Mass in churches across the city this weekend (see below), he wrote: “This motion presents a serious threat to the Catholicity of our schools in Edinburgh and is also, in all probability, just the first step in a process to remove faith education from schools in Scotland altogether.

"It casts into serious doubt the commitment of some of our elected representatives to the future of Catholic schools."

“To deprive the Church’s representatives of voting rights on the Education Committee, where they sit on behalf of us and our children, casts into serious doubt the commitment of some of our elected representatives to the future of Catholic schools.

“There is still time to act, however, and local councillors will be sensitive to your opinion. I would therefore ask you to write to your local councillor as a matter of urgency to ask him or her to vote against this motion."

Earlier this year, Perth & Kinross Council became the first in the country to remove voting rights from church representatives. Edinburgh City Council will consider a similar proposal from the Green Party on 22 August.

Around 20% of all pupils in Edinburgh attend Catholic schools with the city containing 15 Catholic primary schools and three Catholic secondary schools.

Eileen Rafferty, religious education adviser to schools for the Archdiocese, said: “It is only reasonable that Catholic reps vote when it comes to decisions affecting Catholic education and Catholic schools. The vast majority of our reps across the Lothians and Fife are not clergy but parents and/or educationalists with rich experience in Catholic education. It is their voice that is determinedly silenced by this proposal.

“We trust that the majority of councillors will stand up for the Catholic community by rejecting this motion.”

Pick up a pre-written postcard to send to your local councillor at churches within the Edinburgh City Council boundary this weekend. To find out who your local councillor is click here.