On June 1, 1982, Pope John Paul II concluded his remarks about the history of Catholicism in Scotland. He had just noted the abrupt and vehement destruction of the Church in Scotland during the sixteenth century and highlighted, as Pope Benedict did last year, the example of St. John Ogilvie, priest and martyr:
Even this, however forms part of God’s providence: for the centuries that followed witnessed a valiant struggle for survival, in the face of persecution and exile. To remedy the scarcity of priests, Pope Clement VIII founded a college in Rome for your young countrymen and similar seminaries were opened in other safe places on the Continent, to send labourers back to the “Scottish Mission”. The religious Orders too released trained members to collaborate in that work. Who has not heard of Saint John Ogilvie, the Jesuit, who - only a few miles from where I now stand - surrendered life itself to witness to the Faith of Christ!
The Vicars Apostolic, to whom the organization of all the missionary activity was entrusted, testified in their letters to Rome to the attachment of that handful of Scottish Catholics to the Faith of their Fathers, to the See of Peter and to the person of the Pope. Carefully preserved throughout all these years, these documents now serve as a mirror, in which is accurately reflected the noble face of the Scottish Catholic community, lined with the unmistakable signs of poverty and hardship, but radiant with expectation that in God’s own time a new day would surely dawn for the Church in Scotland.
Dear beloved Catholics of Scotland, the prayers of your forefathers did not go unanswered! Their firm hope in divine providence was not disillusioned! A century and a half ago the tide of repression turned. The small Catholic community gradually gained new vitality. The advent of numerous Catholic emigrants from nearby Ireland, accompanied by zealous Irish priests, enlarged and enriched it spiritually. This induced Pope Leo XIII to restore the Catholic hierarchy to Scotland - the very first act of his pontificate - and since that moment there has been a rapid and continous progress.
8. You are the heirs to the sacred heritage. Your forefathers have handed on to you the only inheritance they really prized, our holy Catholic faith! From heaven their heartfelt appeal to you would be this: “Set your hearts on his Kingdom” (Luc. 12, 31). With grateful hearts turn to God and thank him that tranquil days have been restored to the Catholic community in Scotland.
9. What was a dream a century ago has become the reality of today. A complete transformation of Catholic life has come about in Scotland, with the Catholics of Scotland assuming their legitimate role in every sector of public life and some of them invested with the most important and prestigious offices of this land. Is this not what Saint Paul has to say to us in today’s reading from Ephesians: “So the body grows, until it has built itself up, in love” (Eph. 4, 16).
You originate in a glorious past, but you do not live in the past. You belong to the present and your generation must not be content simply to rest on the laurels won by your grandparents and great-grandparents. You must give your response to Christ’s call to follow him and enter with him as co-heirs into his Father’s heavenly Kingdom. But we find it harder to follow Christ today than appears to have been the case before. Witnessing to him in modern life means a daily contest, not so quickly and decisively resolved as for the martyrs in the past. As believers we are constantly exposed to pressures by modern society, which would compel us to conform to the standards of this secular age, substitute new priorities, restrict our aspirations at the risk of compromising our Christian conscience.
At the end of Mass, the crowd sang, "Will Ye No Come Back Again?"