Scotland: Church ‘alarm’ over cross caution

The Catholic Church has criticised Scottish prosecutors for cautioning the Celtic goalkeeper for crossing himself during a match against Rangers.

Artur Boruc was cautioned for a breach of the peace over the incident at an Old Firm match at Ibrox in February.

The Catholic Church called it “worrying and alarming” – especially as the sign of the cross was globally accepted as a “gesture of religious reverence”.

The Crown Office said the gesture was provocative and caused crowd trouble.

It said the Procurator Fiscal had issued the caution as an alternative to prosecution.

The Crown Office said Boruc’s behaviour had taken place before a crowd in the charged atmosphere of a match between Celtic and rivals Rangers.

And as such it constituted a breach of the peace.

A Crown Office spokesman said Boruc’s actions “included a combination of behaviour before a crowd in the charged atmosphere of an Old Firm match”.

And that the Polish keeper’s behaviour had “provoked alarm and crowd trouble”.

However, Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church, said the move to caution Boruc was “regrettable”.

“It’s a worrying and alarming development, especially since the sign of the cross is globally accepted as a gesture of religious reverence,” he said.

“It’s also very common in international football and was commonplace throughout the World Cup.

“It is extremely regrettable that Scotland seems to have made itself one of the few countries in the world where this simply religious gesture is considered an offence.”

Explanation call

Nationalist leader Alex Salmond also criticised the decision to caution the player.

“The Procurator Fiscal has taken leave of their senses. I will be demanding an explanation for this,” he said.

He said the “ludicrous” move is the type of action which brought the law and legal system into disrepute.

“The Procurator Fiscal and the Crown Office is acting in a way that will inflame rather than reduce religious antagonism,” he said.

The incident took place at the start of the second half of the game on 12 February.

Strathclyde Police investigated complaints that Boruc, 26, had angered a section of the crowd with the gesture and they submitted a report to the Procurator Fiscal.

However, as an alternative to prosecution, Boruc was cautioned, leaving him with a criminal record.

The goalkeeper, who played during this year’s World Cup in Germany, signed for Celtic from Legia Warsaw in July last year.

Neither Celtic Football Club or Rangers have commented on the cautioning.

However, Rangers Supporters Group said it was “disappointing” Celtic did not take action against the player after the game.

Stephen Smith, spokesman for the group, added: “Professional footballers are meant to set an example. What he was, was deliberately provocative and completely done to wind up the fans, as if the fixture isn’t volatile enough.”

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Aug. 26, 2006

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday August 26, 2006.
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