Irish Catholic and Protestant leaders recreate Queen’s ‘walk of hope’

walk of hope

The late Queen’s Diamond Jubilee ‘walk of hope’ between the Anglican and Catholic churches in the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen gave church leaders cause to reflect.

The walk of hope was a simple street crossing: from the Protestant St Macartin’s Cathedral to the Catholic St Michael’s Church. It was an uncomplicated act with powerful symbolism.

It was also the first time she had stepped inside a catholic church in Ireland.

Those few steps were seen as a giant stride towards reconciliation in a town that had been devastated by the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing. It has been described as an uncomplicated act with powerful symbolism.

“She didn’t have to say words, just her actions spoke louder than words by actually crossing the street,” say the Dean of St Macartin’s, the Very Rev Kenneth Hall and Monsignor Peter O’Reilly of St Michael’s. They had been hosting her that day-

The following day, the Queen shook hands with the then Sinn Féin deputy first minister and former IRA leader Martin McGuinness in another iconic gesture of goodwill.

“I think we did know the significance of what she did (with that simple but important gesture”, Hall said later.

The next year, the two churchmen were invited to Buckingham Palace where the Queen was keen to hear what progress had been made.

“We had to file past the Queen and she looked at the both of us …and said ‘Are you two still working together?’ Of course we were,” Dean Hall recounted.

“We had a private audience with her just a short space of time afterwards, probably for about five or six minutes.

“I remember she asked us that very bold question, she looked over the glasses and she asked us, ‘What are you doing to further reconciliation work in Enniskillen?'”

Monsignor O’Reilly added: “It was a bit like your grandmother asking you have you done your homework, it was as direct as that”.

Hall says in 2014, when we met the Prince (now King) Charles III, he told us to ‘keep it up’.

On Sunday – 10 years later – the two churches came together again. They held a joint Service of Prayer and Reflection to pay tribute to the Queen’s life.

Those attending recreated the Queen’s short journey by also crossing the street between the two churches.

“Everything the Queen did was rooted in her faith,” Hall says.

“She had a deep witness to Christian faith, and out of that sprung her love of country, her devotion to God and her desire for reconciliation.”

Hall called Sunday’s joint Catholic-Anglican service as a “continuation” of the events in 2012.

O’Reilly agrees. “The service is to look back, but there is a sense that by literally doing the walking ourselves, we are signifying that we have to keep doing the work.

“Sunday will give expression to the challenge the Queen gave us to keep working together.”


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