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Saturday, 25 May, 2002, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Royal thanks at church assembly
The Queen's carriage on Edinburgh's Royal Mile
The Queen opened the Kirk's general assembly
The Queen has thanked the Scottish people for their support in her family's recent bereavements.

She was speaking as she opened the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on the third day of her Golden Jubilee tour north of the border.

Her Majesty addressed 850 ministers, elders and members of the church at the start of the Kirk's annual meeting.

The week-long annual gathering, in Edinburgh, will focus on declining church attendances and shortages of ministers.


My visit here today affords me an opportunity to thank the people of Scotland for their support after the deaths of my mother and sister

Her Majesty The Queen
Reports prepared for the Kirk warn the Church of Scotland faces such a serious decline that it could be extinct in half a century.

Congregations are ageing and churches find it difficult to replace retiring ministers, the Kirk has warned.

It has been suggested the Kirk should sell off its property and the General Assembly itself should move out of Edinburgh.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were welcomed at the entrance to the General Assembly on the Mound by First Minister Jack McConnell and Edinburgh Lord Provost Eric Milligan, both wearing kilts.

Her Majesty expressed her affection for Scotland and her gratitude at the support shown by the Scottish people following the deaths of her sister and mother.

Profound affection

She said: "My last visit to this building, in 1999, was on the historic occasion of the opening of the Scottish Parliament.

"I expressed then and reaffirm now my profound affection for Scotland and the importance of the Scottish dimension to my life and the lives of my family.

"My visit here today affords me an opportunity to thank the people of Scotland for their support after the deaths of my mother and sister.

"I have been so touched by the kindness shown by so many of you over these recent months."

the Queen and Prince Philip on their way to the Mound
The Queen thanked the people of Scotland

The Queen began her speech by congratulating the incoming Moderator the Right Reverend Doctor Finlay Macdonald on his appointment.

The last time Her Majesty addressed the General Assembly was in 1977 when she celebrated her Silver Jubilee.

Later, the Queen hosted a garden party for 8,000 guests in the scenic in the grounds of the Palace of HolyroodHouse in Edinburgh.

Representatives from local authorities and ordinary people gathered in marquees for the two-hour reception.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Isabel Fraser
"The Queen stressed her affection for Scotland."
The BBC's Jennie Bond
"Several thousand lined the route"

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25 May 02 | Scotland
24 May 02 | Scotland
19 May 01 | Scotland
17 Oct 00 | Scotland
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