Cardinal demands restraint

15th December 2006 at 00:00
the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland has described the Scottish media as "anti-Catholic" for giving space on a daily basis to letters, opinion columns and editorials criticising Catholic schools.

At a seminar on secterianism - attended by the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Catholic Education Service and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities -Cardinal Keith O'Brien called on the media to show restraint and balance when covering the subject of Catholic schools.

He said that, since August 6, at least 43 letters or articles had been published in Scottish newspapers attacking Catholic schools.

Cardinal O'Brien continued: "Since no mainstream political party has questioned the existence of Catholic schools or proposed their abolition, and the issue is not a matter of pressing public concern, each time a newspaper or broadcaster decides, in the face of such widespread disinterest, to raise, promote or advance these arguments, they fan the flames of religious hatred and empower those whose views are not so diplomatically expressed."

He endorsed moves to boost the twinning of denominational and non-denominational schools as part of the executive's drive to stamp out sectarianism.

The cardinal said schools had a part to play in helping individuals distance themselves from bigotry, prejudice and intolerant attitudes.

But he also called on Jack McConnell, the First Minister, to refocus his work on anti-sectarianism. Huge attention had been given to football, parades and marches, but most instances of sectarianism did not involve these, he said.

"With this in mind, we should now begin to look at the wider social causes of sectarian animosity," Cardinal O'Brien said.

The Reverend Ewan Aitken, leader of Edinburgh City Council and former Cosla education spokesman, also gave his support to the twinning report.

He wrote in its introduction, alongside Cardinal O'Brien: "Assumptions are dangerous things. One of the great things about twinning between denominational and non-denominational schools is that it challenges all those involved, both young people and adults, to question our assumptions and learn more about those around us."

The new guide on twinning denominational and non-denominational schools, Building Friendships and Strengthening Communities, stresses there is no blueprint for how twinning work should be undertaken.

Twinning means schools working together, usually on a specific project, to enrich the experiences of their pupils and give them an opportunity to meet. It is voluntary, may or may not explicitly tackle sectarianism, and can bring together schools on opposite sides of Scotland, in rural and urban locations, or on a shared campus.

Some twinning activities have been part of the eco schools agenda, enterprise in education, or involved changes to the school estate if the two are moving to a shared campus. Others have been based on the curriculum - such as twinned classes studying the same novel at the same time.

Next week Twinning in practice

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