Archbishop Leo Cushley spoke today at The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in the Time for Reflection spot.

Watch the broadcast below or on our YouTube.

Almost twenty years ago to the day, I started working as a diplomat for the Vatican at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.I had already had diplomatic experience in other countries, mostly in bilateral relations.

I had survived four years in the midst of a civil war; I had helped negotiate an international treaty; and I had even learned a new language or two.

But coming to the UN was completely different.

I enjoyed it, going at a hundred miles an hour Monday to Friday, sometimes pulling an all-nighter because the Holy See and Cuba couldn’t agree on language to go into a draft resolution until 3:40 on a Saturday morning when all the coke and crisps had been emptied from the dispensers and we were all begging for mercy…

I learned a lot too, about me and about other people.

First, I made good friends, and I’ve kept many of them since.

But one thing that has really stuck with me ever since is that I learned not to fall out with people just because we didn’t agree on a given text, or draft resolution or decision.

What I mean is this: In one day you could find yourself discussing three entirely different topics, say the NPT – nuclear disarmament – in the morning, followed by the UN Population Fund at lunchtime, followed by a debate on refugees in the afternoon.

And we were there, all 193 countries if we wanted to be – but each of us, in each meeting, would have a different approach to the question on the table.

And I began to think of the relationships among each of the members states in each meeting being like a mosaic.  The mosaic – the relationships between us all – changed according to what was on the table.

For example, I remember a diplomat of a Nordic country and I were on completely opposite sides of an argument in one meeting; but not long after, another diplomat of the same country and I were able to draw the representatives of the G77 and the EU together, because the Nordic and I were friends, we trusted each other, and they trusted us.

The mosaic shifted, the relationship was positive, and a modest success was achieved that evening.

The point I’m making is one that should be familiar to members here.

We don’t all agree on everything, and we never will; but let’s notice that if we can’t agree or if we can’t win, we all still serve the common good.

Where we can agree, fine; where we cannot, let’s remain friends and keep channels open, because the next time could be the time you need each other.

A healthy democracy needs less cancelling and more honesty, and it needs positive and helpful relationships that ultimately serve not ourselves, but the common good and the people who sent us here.

In the meantime, please be assured of the prayers and the support of the people I represent.

Thank you.