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Language: English / Gàidhlig

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Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Tuesday, May 14, 2024


Time for Reflection

The first item of business is time for reflection, and our time for reflection leader today is the Most Rev Leo Cushley, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

The Most Rev Leo Cushley (Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh)

Almost 20 years ago to the day, I started working as a diplomat for the Vatican at the United Nations headquarters in New York. I already had diplomatic experience in other countries, mostly in bilateral relations. I had survived four years in the midst of a civil war, had helped to negotiate an international treaty and had even learned a new language or two, but coming to the UN was completely different.

I enjoyed it; I enjoyed going at 100 miles an hour from Monday to Friday and sometimes pulling an allnighter because some countries could not 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 also learned a lot about myself and about other people. I made good friends, and I have kept many of them since. One thing that has really stuck with me is that I learned not to fall out with people just because we did not agree on a given text, draft resolution or decision.

What I mean is this: in one day I could find myself discussing three entirely different topics, say the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in the morning, followed by the UN population fund at lunchtime, followed by a debate on refugees in the afternoon. We were all 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.

I began to think of the relationships among the member states in each meeting as being like a mosaic. The mosaic—the relationships among us all—changed according to what was on the table. For example, I remember that a diplomat of a Nordic country and I were on completely opposite sides of an argument in one meeting. However, not long after, another diplomat of the same country and I were able to draw the representatives of the G77 and the European Union together, because the Nordic person 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.

My point should be familiar to members here. We do not all agree on everything, and we never will, but let us notice that even if we cannot agree, or if we cannot win, we all still serve the common good.

Where we can agree, fine; where we cannot, let us remain friends and keep channels open— because the next time could be the time that 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. Thank you for the invitation to address you, and please be assured of the prayers and the support of the people I represent.