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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 05:22 GMT 06:22 UK
Rome welcomes Scottish cardinal
By Elizabeth Quigley
BBC Scotland reporter in Rome

They have come from all over Scotland, a tartan army with a difference, complete with piper resplendent in kilt, more than 400 Scottish pilgrims have descended on Rome.

The Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina
A mass of the Scottish pilgrimage to Rome was held
With less than four weeks' notice it has been something of a mad scramble.

Some of the Scots have interrupted their October holidays and diverted to Rome.

Others had long-standing arrangements to visit the Vatican to mark the Pope's 25th anniversary and now have another, unexpected, reason to celebrate.

The day before the consistory - the ceremony where the cardinals receive their red birettas, or caps - about 120 Scots gathered just a few hundred yards from St Peter's Square at the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina for a mass.

Archbishop Keith O'Brien arrived wearing purple robes and was promptly swamped by well-wishers.

The archbishop shook hands and even cuddled a baby.

It was a great surprise when I was asked to stay a little longer
Archbishop Keith O'Brien
Three-month-old Johanna from Mexico City had no idea why her mother felt it was so important for her to be given a blessing by the man in the brightly coloured clothes but she seemed more than happy to be nestled in the archbishop's arms.

With most of the pilgrims inside the church, the mass should have been about to start.

But one small group still lingered outside.

"Hurry up," they were told. "He won't start without you!"

Terry, Helen and Paul O'Brien - the brother, niece and nephew of the cardinal-elect - took the hint and quickly found their seats.

The delight at being appointed a cardinal was clear on the archbishop's face, but so was the surprise at being chosen.

Archbishop O'Brien and Robert Fairbairn of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band
A piper helped greet Archbishop O'Brien
During the homily, he told the congregation that although he had planned to be in Rome this week, he had not planned to stay this long.

"It was a great surprise when I was asked to stay a little longer," he said.

"But if it was a surprise for me then I'm sure it was a tremendous surprise for other people."

After the mass, there were more handshakes and hugs and then just enough time for a final group photograph of close family and friends.

In the middle of the "team photograph" stood a beaming Keith O'Brien.

It was probably one of the last pictures taken of him as an archbishop.

In pictures: Scotland's cardinal
21 Oct 03  |  Photo Gallery
Scots Catholics head for Rome
17 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Pope appoints Scottish cardinal
29 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Pope appoints 31 new cardinals
28 Sep 03  |  Europe
Pope chooses Winning successor
15 Jan 02  |  Scotland

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