By Lisa Zengarini
Irish Church leaders have announced a special Service of Reflection and Hope on October 21 to mark the centenaries of the establishment of Northern Ireland and the Partition of Ireland in 1921, reiterating their common commitment to peace, healing and reconciliation in the British islands.
The location chosen for the venue is Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, in Armagh, due to its significance as Ireland’s ecclesiastical capital – a status which has its origins in the 5th Century, when the present site of the Church of Ireland cathedral was presented to Saint Patrick for building his ‘great stone church’. Both the Irish Catholic and Anglican primates of Ireland sit in Armagh in their respective cathedrals which are both dedicated to the Irish Patron Saint.
Deepening relationships to promote reconciliation
The special Christian act of worship will involve people from diverse backgrounds and traditions, and with different beliefs and aspirations, coming together to pray for the healing of past hurts and to seek God’s guidance in a spirit of hope for the future. It is part of the joint efforts promoted this year by the Anglican Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches of Ireland to encourage inter-community peace and reconciliation through dialogue with a focus on relationships.
Journeying together for peace
This was pointed out last March in their joint St Patrick’s Day Message. The statement, entitled ‘In Christ We Journey Together’, emphasizes the need to “be intentional in creating spaces for encounter with those who are different from us, and those who may feel marginalised in the narratives that have shaped our community identity’ and, in doing so, “to face difficult truths about failings in our own leadership in the work of peace and reconciliation”. It welcomes the progress that has been made through the peace process “in building relations of mutual respect and trust” across the British islands (UK and Ireland). While acknowledging that there is still much work to do, and that “these relationships are often tested”, they note that “our communities have also demonstrated great resilience, solidarity and compassion, evident most recently in the response to Covid-19’. The Message places particular emphasis on the interconnectedness of the people of the UK and Ireland, saying that what is undeniable is “the reality that we have to live in a shared space on these islands, and to make them a place of belonging and welcome for all”.