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Rare Catholic Honour for Former Moderator

Thursday November 10

Sheilagh Kesting receives her certificate, signed by the Pope, and medal from the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, marking her investiture as Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great

The former ecumenical officer of the Church of Scotland has been awarded a major honour by the Roman Catholic church.

The Very Rev Dr Sheilagh Kesting was invested as a Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great on Sunday (November 6) by the Most Rev Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. The event took place at the Archbishop’s residence in Edinburgh, in the presence of the Catholic bishops of Scotland.

She is believed to be the first member of the Church of Scotland to receive the honour, which is very rarely given to non-Catholics.

Sheilagh, who in 2007 became the first female minister appointed Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said she was ‘absolutely speechless’ at the award, which had been kept secret from her. “I had absolutely no idea. I thought I had just been invited to dinner! I’m delighted, it’s such an honour.”

The award marks a career-long commitment to ecumenism, having been a member of the Joint Commission on Doctrine with the Roman Catholic Church since she was a parish minister in the early 1980s; and 23 years as ecumenical officer which ended with her retirement in the summer.

She added: “It was good to be able to go back and reflect on how things had changed, what we’d been able to do together. And it gave me the opportunity to say that the journey needs to continue, and to be seen to continue.”

The Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great was established in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI. It is given to recipients ‘in recognition of their personal service to the Holy See and to the Roman Catholic Church, through their unusual labours, their support of the Holy See, and their excellent examples set forth in their communities and their countries’. It permits Sheilagh to style herself as Dame Sheilagh Kesting DSG.

The Rev Alison McDonald, convener of the Church of Scotland ecumenical relations committee, said: “I am delighted that Sheilagh has been awarded this highly significant honour. It’s a tribute to the work she’s done in building a good relationship between the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church over many years, particularly through the Joint Commission on Doctrine.

“As well as a personal honour, it’s a sign of the good relationship which has been build up between our churches, and encourages us to continue to build on that relationship.”


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