Church leaders behind the Armagh service to mark the centenary of the Partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland, to which President Michael D. Higgins said he did not ‘would not attend, said they were saddened by the “polarized public comment” around the one event.
In a joint statement on Friday, the Church Leaders Group said the tone of the public debate around their “service of reflection and hope” had “brought to light the societal wounds we wish to reflect on in this service.”
Earlier this month, President Higgins was criticized for refusing to attend the event, which Queen Elizabeth was also scheduled to attend. He later said he was declining because he had become “politicized”. An opinion poll last week found that 81% of Irish people supported his decision.
Today the group, which includes the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, the President of the Methodist Church and the President of the Irish Council of Churches, said that he was aware from the start that the centenarians “highlight painful moments from our past that continue to impact relationships in our present”.
“We felt a responsibility, as Christian leaders, to explore the opportunity to deepen the work of reconciliation in a context of respectful dialogue. We cannot undo the past, but we can learn from it, and we all have a responsibility to help heal relationships from our different perspectives, ”they said.
Church leaders emphasized that their wish is to come together in prayer for healing relationships and to demonstrate a renewed commitment to working together for peace, reconciliation, and the common good.
They said the service would be supported by a Christian vision of reconciliation, “which calls us to recognize the pain of the past, to confess our own failures and to commit to peace.”
Recognizing that not everyone will feel able to participate in the service, they invited as many people as possible to join them in prayer on the day of the service, October 21, and said they hoped it would. would be “a positive and honest contribution, by faith, to peace and healing in this country.”
In their statement, the group representing the major Christian churches clarified the background and the original vision for the service. They recalled their New Year’s statement which recognized that while for some the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland was a cause for celebration, for others the centenary of the partition of the island evoked feelings of loss. and separation.
They reaffirmed that the service in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh is an initiative of the Church leaders group, who have been fully responsible for its planning, organization and design and is not part of from any other event program.
“As church leaders, people of faith, we are united at this crossroads as we wait, by the grace of God, for a better and brighter future,” they said.
“We recognize the need to better respect our differences, but we must learn to ‘differ well’ and be prepared to listen and be charitable to those with different views and aspirations. “