The Princess Royal officially endorsed an historic friendship agreement between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland at a ceremony in Dunfermline.
Anne formally signed the St Margaret’s Declaration at Dunfermline Abbey in Fife along with Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly and the Most Revd Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
The agreement is a culmination of years of ecumenical relationship building between the two churches, which recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is named after the 11th century Scottish Queen buried at the abbey and was signed during a service to mark the abbey’s 950th anniversary on St Margaret’s Day.
Anne was among 300 invited guests from the local community, the Kirk, ecumenical partners, civic society and heritage organisations.
She was invited to the service as the patron of St Margaret’s Chapel Guild at Edinburgh Castle.
Addressing the congregation, the Princess Royal said: “This is St Margaret’s Day and it is an important St Margaret’s message of unity and friendship that we are also celebrating here.
“I was honoured to be asked to be present today for the signing of the Declaration of Friendship between the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the Church of Scotland.
“This formalises their close bonds of friendship.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
The agreement was written by senior figures from both Churches and describes both the churches’ shared beliefs while acknowledging 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”.
Further work is needed on reconciliation, with both churches acknowledging some divisions remain challenging.
Archbishop Cushley also gave a sermon at the service.
He 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.”
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