Northern Ireland: Bloody Sunday commemorated 50 years on
By Vatican News staff reporter
It’s been fifty years since British soldiers killed 13 unarmed Catholic civil rights marchers in what has become known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Family and friends of the 13 Catholics who died in Derry (Londonderry) on 30 January 1972 - and of a 14th who died later of his wounds - gathered this week for a series of commemorations to mark this tragic event.
They also vowed they would not give up their call for prosecutions.
The bloodshed in Northern Ireland was to last for decades until the Good Friday peace agreement was signed in April of 1998, bringing an end to 30 years of conflict known as the “Troubles”.
In 2010, the Saville judicial inquiry found that the victims on the day were innocent and had posed no threat to the military.
The current British government last year announced a plan to halt all prosecutions of soldiers and militants in a bid to draw a line under the conflict.
The massacre on Bloody Sunday took place in the Bogside area of the City of Derry. Its current bishop, Donal McKeown, spoke to Vatican News about healing the wounds of the past and looking to the future with hope.
Faith and courage
“I think about the dignity of many people, the courage of many people, the strength of many people who have come through this, particularly because of their faith background; because the future belongs to those who can generate hope from the past rather than despair.”
Architects of the future not prisoners of the past
Speaking to Fabio Colegrande, Bishop McKeown said as people gather to remember the events that took place in Derry fifty years ago this weekend, he would be asking them to “look at the past with compassion; to forgive and remember, and be able to move on because we deserve to be architects of the future and not prisoners of the past.”
Following years of conflict which led to the deaths of 3,000 people, the Bishop of Derry noted that much work has been achieved in building a strong relationship between both the Catholic and Protestant Churches.
“The Church leaders were way ahead of politicians,” he said.
At a Mass this weekend to mark this milestone anniversary, Bishop McKeown was joined by his Anglican counterpart. There was also expected to be an ecumenical service at the monument in Creggan, Derry, which commemorates all those who lost their lives on that tragic day.
The Bishop noted that the tensions that lay behind Northern Ireland’s conflict are still there but “the war is over”.
He also said that, in today’s Northern Ireland, “differences of opinion, differences of identity can be celebrated; not seen as something to be feared, and I hope that we as Church leaders can ensure that whatever direction the island take,d whatever direction Europe takes, it is a society that is able to process the pain of being human; process the pain of the past and build hope for the future.”