By Linda Bordoni
The Catholic and Anglican bishops of Northern Ireland have condemned the violence that erupted in Derry during the so-called “Twelfth” week that marks a Protestant celebration held on 12 July.
They offered support to all those affected and released a statement in which they “encourage political representatives to do their utmost to end the stalemate which, they say, has paralysed politics in Northern Ireland”.
For six successive nights, riots took place in Derry, and although no one was killed or seriously hurt, the street violence was punctuated by at least two separate attempts by alleged dissident republicans who attacked officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and targeted former Sinn Fein leaders.
After the Derry attacks, which targeted a small Protestant community as well as sheltered housing nearby, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry, Reverend Ken Good, and his Catholic counterpart, Bishop Donal McKeown, visited the affected areas and spoke with community leaders and residents.
Bishop McKeown told Vatican Radio about how important it is that the Church leaders continue to remain very visible and present at a time when the politicians are not sitting round the one table and do not take part in the Parliament in Belfast:
Bishop Donal McKeown explained that what the two Church leaders in the city have tried to do is two-fold:
“On the one hand the Church of Ireland and myself emphasized the importance of a pastoral outreach to all those who felt very uneasy and unhappy and worried because of the violence that exploded in our midst” he said, revealing that they both undertook pastoral visits to different communities in Derry.
He stressed his deep belief that it is important the Church remains visible and present “at a time when the politicians are not sitting round the one table and do not take part in the Parliament in Belfast”.
Participation in civil life
Secondly, Bishop McKeown said, “as Churches we try to work with all the elements in the civil life of the city”.
He spoke of their desire to participate in many different ways relating and interacting with all civil leaders, with tourists, political parties, the chamber of commerce, trade unions, health authorities and police.
Bishop McKeown expressed his joy at the fact that the Churches were were very much included at the gathering of the city, “and I was happy to be asked to speak at that”.
“It is important that the Churches have their own pastoral role but it is also important that we act as part of the civil life of our city and it is wonderful that we are welcomed among all the different parties of the city because it is recognized we have a particular contribution to make” he said.
“We happily do that, the bishop explained, through our own non-political perspective” he said.
We try to speak the message of the Good Shepherd, bishop McKeown said, and “we also try to offer leadership and support to those who are working for peace.”