Efforts to ease tensions over Orange walks in Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland, Jun 19, 2019 / 11:16 am (CNA).- Some figures in the Catholic Church and Protestant loyalist groups in Scotland are seeking to reach a compromise regarding Protestant marches passing by Catholic churches.

Opposition to Orange walks have increased since last July, when a priest, Canon Tom White, was spat at and verbally abused while greeting parishioners after Mass while an Orange march approached his Glaswegian parish, St. Alphonsus.

Orange marches are organized by the Orange Order, largely in Northern Ireland and Scotland, to commemorate the defeat of James II by William of Orange at the July 1, 1690 Battle of the Boyne. James had been deposed as king of England, Ireland, and Scotland in a 1688 revolution by the Parliament of England after he had expanded toleration of Catholics and Protestant nonconformists in the officially Protestant kingdoms.

In the past year, Orange walks have been rerouted by Glasgow city council to keep them from passing in front of Catholic churches. Organizers have cancelled some of the walks in response to their rerouting.

When Glasgow city council rerouted an Orange march in September, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow said, “We are grateful that common sense has prevailed. The re-routing of the march will bring relief to the people of St Alphonsus parish and the surrounding area, who viewed with anxiety and fear the prospect of another march past the church so soon after the disgraceful scenes earlier this summer.”

Archbishop Leo Cushley of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh recently told STV that “objectively,” Orange walks passing by Catholic churches “shouldn’t be a problem. If it is done respectfully, I don’t see where the problem is.”

“If it is done to taunt your neighbour that’s a different question but it is difficult for me to look into the hearts of everyone who is going past a church,” the bishop, whose see is located 50 miles east of Glasgow, commented.

In response to Archbishop Cushley, a spokesman for the Grange Orange Lodge of Scotland said that “Roman Catholics, Protestants, and people from many other faiths and none, all live harmoniously in communities right across Scotland,” The Herald, a Glasgow daily, reported June 18.

The spokesman added: “This should mean that we can all share the same roads and streets as we each celebrate our own heritage and culture. We will certainly play our part in ensuring that our parades are respectful when passing any place of worship … it is our hope that we find a shared solution that demonstrates that it is perfectly ok to have different religious views and opinions, without the need for religious divisions and divides.”

Dave Scott of Nil by Mouth, an anti-sectarian charity based in Glasgow, commented that “Archbishop Cushley is providing clear-eyed and thoughtful analysis of the situation and the statement in response from the Orange Order would suggest they recognise this and the need for genuine dialogue moving forward.”

Call It Out, a campaign against anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism in Scotland, said on Twitter that “We intend no disrespect whatsoever to [Archbishop Cushley] but we very much doubt he has had much experience of anti-Catholic marches or has consulted the Catholic community across Scotland of their own experiences of these parades.”

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country’s largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.

An April 2018 poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.

Call It Out has indicated it will organize counter-protests of any Orange walk passing by a Catholic parish, while some Orange groups have said they won’t accept rerouting, according to The Herald.

In April the Protestant fraternal society the Apprentice Boys of Derry cancelled an an Easter walk after the Glasgow city council insisted that it not pass in front of St. Alphonsus.

Polic Scotland have indicated that public disorder is likely if Orange walks take place in front of some Catholic churches in Glasgow, requiring a disproportionate number of officers to keep the peace.

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