Northern Ireland’s church leaders admit not trying enough to heal divisions

In a joint St Patrick’s Day statement, Northern Ireland’s church leaders said they have not done enough in the past to heal divisions.

Reflecting on the century since Northern Ireland’s partition, they say they hope this centenary year will provide opportunities to create a better level of mutual understanding.

The Protestant and Catholic leaders went on to speak of hope for the future.

“We have an opportunity in marking these events from our past, to be intentional in creating the spaces for encounters with those who are different from us, and those who may feel marginalised in the narratives that have shaped our community identity.

“This will require us to face difficult truths about failings in our own leadership in the work of peace and reconciliation.

“As Christian churches we acknowledge and lament the times that we failed to bring to a fearful and divided society that message of the deeper connection that binds us, despite our different identities, as children of God, made in his image and likeness.

“We have often been captive churches; not captive to the word of God, but to the idols of state and nation.”

Among those who signed the statement were the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, and the head of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr David Bruce.

Other signatories were Church of Ireland Archbishop Rev John McDowell, President of the Methodist Church Dr Thomas McKnight and the President of the Irish Council of Churches, Dr Ivan Patterson.

Reflecting on the peace process, they  pointed out:

“We have to live in a shared space on these islands and to make them a place of belonging and welcome for all.

“In our approach to the past we have a moral responsibility to acknowledge the corrosive impact of violence and words that can lead to violence, and a duty of care to those still living with the trauma of its aftermath.”

Last week, details of official plans to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland were announced.

As part of the programme, a religious service will be organised by Northern Ireland’s church leaders.


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