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First Ash Wednesday service held in Scottish Parliament

Archbishop Leo Cushley distributes ashes during an Ash Wednesday service in a Scottish Parliament building (Paul McSherry/CNA)

Lent is 'about sinfulness, it is about acknowledging that we need God’s help', Archbishop Leo Cushley told politicians

The Scottish Parliament hosted a Blessing and Distribution of Ashes for the first time this year, with Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh presiding.

Archbishop Cushley reflected during the March 6 service on the gesture of receiving ashes, which he said reminds us “that we are dust.”

“[A]nd, yes, it is about sinfulness, it is about acknowledging that we need God’s help, that we are fragile, that we are mortal, that we have been disobedient and that we want to regain our relationship with Almighty God,” he continued.

The Ash Wednesday service took place in a committee room in the parliament’s Queensberry House, according to a press release from the archdiocese.

It was sponsored by Member of the Scottish Parliament Elaine Smith, who said in a statement that “it was lovely to have the Archbishop come and distribute ashes to those who work within the Scottish Parliament.”

Anthony Horan, parliamentary officer for the Scottish Bishops Conference, said he was pleased to see “such a cross-party representation” of members of parliament and their staff.

“I believe the Church has something good and positive to offer society,” he said in an archdiocesan statement, adding that it was an honor “to be invited and welcomed to the Scottish Parliament in this special way.”

Horan said he hopes more Catholic events will take place in Parliament in the future. Last year, Mass was celebrated for the first time in Parliament during Holy Week.

Smith also commented on the good turnout at the Ash Wednesday event, saying she would like “repeat this service every Lent, if possible, as well as hosting a Mass during Holy Week.”

In reflecting on the meaning of the ashes distributed at the start of Lent, Archbishop Cushley stressed the importance of recognizing the sin in one’s life and having a desire to repent and be reunited with God.

“I think that is a very good and very wholesome thing for us to do and it takes genuine human maturity to be able to do that sincerely and to wish to improve oneself in order to become the Child of God we were always meant to be.”