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Byline: by Cardinal Keith O'Brien

LATER this year, Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Scotland from Rome to begin a fourday visit to Great Britain. The fact that we are to have another Papal visit, just 28 years after his predecessor Pope John Paul II came to Scotland, is a source of great joy and pride to all Scottish Catholics.

It is also an opportunity which should make us all pause to ask: 'Where stands Scotland's Christian identity today?' For I believe that never before have such concerted efforts been made to marginalise and exclude Christianity from our society and culture.

Earlier this week, I accused the Labour Government, along with its Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy, of undertaking a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values. I stand by my view. It is a charge I personally put to Gordon Brown when we met in 2008 and I have seen no evidence since then to suggest anything has changed.

It is a charge I do not make lightly. In 2006, when Mr Brown was Chancellor, I met him and took that opportunity to criticise his changes to our taxation system so that it ruthlessly penalised long-term legal commitment.

These attacks on marriage and stable family relationships have caused unimaginable misery, pain and life-long failure for thousands of children and have led to disastrous social and economic consequences for our nation.

The drug and alcohol-fuelled promiscuity, hedonism, vandalism and outright nihilism of so many young people today represent a whirlwind we will reap for a long time to come. We have denied them security, stability and morality and we have contrived to hide from them objective truth. We have failed them and we are paying the price for that failure in shattered lives and broken, often suicidal children.

Abortion Over the past decade, a tangible example by the Government to show it acknowledged or endorsed religious values would have been welcomed but none was forthcoming.

The views of the Catholic Church and other faiths have been dismissed out of hand on a number of issues, including the introduction of new laws permitting experimentation on and destruction of human embryos, allowing civil partnerships and same-sex adoption, and the growing abortion crisis in this country.

As a Church leader, I do not seek to present a political blueprint for how society should operate. The job of devising political and economic policies lies properly with politicians. The Church does not preach values of the 'right' or 'left' but promotes the sound moral principles upon which all policies and laws should be built. I therefore urge all voters to examine in detail the personal integrity, philosophy and performance of each political candidate and evaluate their positions within a consistent moral and ethical framework.

In this participation, our consciences should not permit us to abandon unborn children because they are seen as unwanted or inconvenient, even though our politicians have. Each human life from conception is a sacred gift willed by God.

For this reason we have a responsibility to defend human life at every stage and in every condition. We have called, without success, for legislative protection for all unborn human life, as well as continued protection and support for the weak and elderly.

We must raise our voice to ensure that euthanasia may never take hold in this country. We must support laws and programmes which promote childbirth and adoption over abortion.

War, genocide and starvation threaten the lives of many millions of people throughout the world. …