NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

'Biggest' gathering of bishops to honour Orkney's saint

Bishops outside cathedral
Image caption The bishops gathered outside St Magnus Cathedral at the end of the service

Three Roman Catholic archbishops and nine bishops have celebrated Mass in St Magnus cathedral in Kirkwall.

The service was the culmination of a pilgrimage by the diocese of Aberdeen.

They were in Orkney to mark the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of Magnus, joint earl, who was killed on his cousin's orders.

The anniversary has been marked by a number of other events, including the setting up of the Magnus Way pilgrimage route.

It is believed to be the biggest gathering of bishops and archbishops in Orkney's history.

Image caption Archbishop Leo Cushley paused at the pillar which contains the bones of St Magnus
Image caption There was a procession of bishops into the church

St Magnus was killed in the island of Egilsay by his cousin Haakon.

The year of his martyrdom is not known with certainty, but the most probable is 1117.

Magnus was declared a saint about 20 years after his death. His nephew, St Rognvald, built St Magnus Cathedral in his memory, starting in 1137.

In his homily, Bishop of Aberdeen Hugh Gilbert drew a parallel between Jesus's teaching that a grain has to fall into the ground and die before it can produce sheaves of wheat to harvest, and the murder of Magnus.

He said Magnus's death had produced a legacy of peace; wellbeing and healing; and creativity.

Image caption Hugh Gilbert, Bishop of Aberdeen, gave the homily
Image caption Mass was celebrated by Archbishop of Edinburgh Leo Cushley

The service included the playing of Ivan Drever's "Rose of St Magnus" inspired by the rose window of the cathedral, and the singing of the medieval hymn to Magnus "Nobilis humilis".

Afterwards, the minister of the cathedral, the Rev Fraser Macnaughton, told BBC Radio Orkney the service gave a flavour of what life would have been like in the building before the Reformation because, he said, it had been a Catholic cathedral for more than 500 years.

Image caption The procession leaves the cathedral
Image caption Bishop Hugh chats to Orkney Islands' Council convenor Harvey Johnston

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