Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien
Cardinal O'Brien
Title Cardinal-Priest of Ss. Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano
Coat of arms
Serve the Lord with Gladness
Ordained priest 3 April 1965
Consecrated bishop 5 August 1985
Styles of
Keith O'Brien
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Saint Andrews and Edinburgh

Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien (born 17 March 1938) is the current Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh in Scotland, and is that country's only Cardinal.

Cardinal O'Brien is the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland[1][2] and heads its Conference of Bishops. By virtue of these roles he is sometimes referred to by non-Scots as the 'Primate of Scotland';[3] however, no such title has ever been officially bestowed upon him and there is no precedent in Scotland for the position of primate.

Early life

Keith Patrick O’Brien was born at Ballycastle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland on 17 March 1938. After primary education in Ballycastle, the he moved with his family to Scotland where his father was serving with the Royal Navy at Faslane, initially attending St Stephen’s Primary School, Dalmuir before continuing to secondary school at St Patrick’s High School, Dumbarton. His family then moved to Edinburgh, where he completed his secondary education at Holy Cross Academy, before studying at the University of Edinburgh where he gained a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1959 (and later a Diploma of Education in 1966). His studies for the Priesthood were at St. Andrew’s College, Drygrange, Roxburghshire and he was ordained priest on 3 April 1965 by his predecessor, Cardinal Gordon Gray. Initially, serving as curate at Holy Cross, Edinburgh from 1965 until 1966, he completed his teacher training certificate at Moray House College of Education. For the next 5 years, from 1966 to 1971, he was employed by Fife County Council as a teacher of mathematics and science; he also served as chaplain to St Columba’s Secondary School, initially in Cowdenbeath and then in Dunfermline, while assisting at St Bride’s Parish, Cowdenbeath.

He was then moved to full time parish apostolate in St Patrick’s, Kilsyth from 1972 until 1975 and then St Mary’s, Bathgate from 1975 until 1978. He served as spiritual director to the students at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange from 1978 until 1980 then as Rector of St Mary’s College, the junior seminary at Blairs near Aberdeen, from 1980 until 1985.

Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

Cardinal O’Brien was nominated archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh on 30 May 1985 and was ordained to the episcopate by Cardinal Gray, then archbishop emeritus of St Andrews and Edinburgh, at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh on 5 August 1985. Pope John Paul II created him Cardinal-Priest of Ss Joachim and Anne ad Tusculanum on 21 October 2003.

The Cardinal was made Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 2005, appointed Grand Prior of the Scottish Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 2001 and appointed Knight Grand Cross in 2003.

Cardinal O'Brien was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada in 2004; awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of St Andrews in 2004 and awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Edinburgh also in 2004.

He was Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles from 1996 until 1999 when Bishop Ian Murray took over the diocese.

Cardinal O'Brien took part in the 2005 Papal Conclave which elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Curial appointments

After his creation as cardinal, Keith Patrick O’Brien was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and also a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

He is currently the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and fulfils various engagements outwith his own archdiocese at the request of other members of the Conference.

Missionary interest


Cardinal O'Brien has always shown a keen interest in the foreign missions, having visited the territory previously adopted by his own Archdiocese – Bauchi in northern Nigeria - on two occasions. He has also visited his priests who are on loan to dioceses in Central America, having visited El Salvador on three occasions and Chiapas in Mexico on two occasions, as well as going to Guatemala.

As a director of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), the Cardinal has visited projects funded from Scotland in successive years: Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2004, Ethiopia in 2005, and Darfur in Sudan in 2006. During the same year, Cardinal O'Brien promoted various projects in the Diocese of Moshi in Tanzania which are supported by Holy Rood High School and the parish of St John in Portobello. He also visited India early in 2007, and has been invited to visit Beijing and Shanghai in China and Hanoi in Vietnam.


Sometimes known as the "Cardinal of Controversy" [4] O'Brien often speaks on issues close to his heart with frankness and the issue of a religious leader speaking on political matters is one which is capable of raising passion on all sides.

Scottish independence

In an interview with the University of St Andrews philosopher Professor John Haldane, published in the Catholic Herald in October 2006, Cardinal O'Brien stated that he would be "happy" if Scots voted for independence, and predicted that independence is coming "before too long". He drew parallels with the independence of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland: "it is difficult to argue that ecclesiastical independence is acceptable but political independence is not".[5]

Civil partnerships

Cardinal O'Brien has made public pronouncements on several other political issues. In January 2006 he criticised Westminster MPs over the introduction of civil partnerships in the UK, and Holyrood MSPs over the liberalisation of divorce laws in Scotland.[6]

Politicians who support abortion

In May 2007 he urged Catholics to reject political candidates who support what he called the "social evil" of abortion, and said that such Catholic politicians should not expect to remain full members of the Church.[7]

Embryo bill

During March 2008 Cardinal O'Brien highlighted the issue of an Embryo Bill facing parliament, denouncing the government for a "monstrous attack on human rights" through its "evil" endorsement of "Frankenstein" experiments. Some scientists suggested that the Cardinal intentionally used inflammatory language to stir up opposition to the bill; however others argued he was sticking up for morals and forced the Government to allow MPs to vote freely on the issue. (Gordon Brown had originally imposed a three-line whip on Labour MPs, meaning they had to back the bill, regardless of personal convictions.)[8][9][10]

The Cardinal posted a video on YouTube in which he put forward his beliefs concerning the Human Embryology & Fertilisation Bill. The short video was also put on DVD and sent to every MP in parliament.[11] In the video O'Brien makes clear that he is not against medical research — in fact he supports research with adult Stem Cells — but he is opposed to the using of child embryos which will be destroyed after experimentation. He also voiced concerns over "human-animal hybrids" in the video.

Personal life

Cardinal O'Brien has long been suffering from heart problems and was fitted with a pacemaker after complaining of dizzy spells and fainting prior to Passion Sunday Mass in March 2008.[12]


External links

no:Keith Michael Patrick O'Brienpt:Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien ru:О'Брайен, Кейт Майкл Патрик