Church leaders to mark Good Friday Agreement

Ireland’s church leaders will commence a two-day visit to Rome today, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Leaders of the Church of Ireland, the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church, and Irish Council of Churches will take part in a special seminar to mark the anniversary, where they will share their personal reflections.

The event has been organised jointly by the British and Irish ambassadors to the Holy See, the UK and Ireland’s official representatives to the Vatican City State.

It follows a similar event hosted by the embassies for the 20th anniversary in 2018.

The seminar, which takes place in the Pontifical Irish College, will also explore the role that churches and faith-based leaders play in peace-making and reconciliation more broadly.

Speaking ahead of the visit, British Ambassador to the Holy See Chris Trott and Irish Ambassador to the Holy See Frances Collins expressed hope that by sharing experiences, the visit would serve to inspire other Church and faith-based leaders as they work to support peace and reconciliation around the world.

In a joint statement, the church leaders welcomed the opportunity to spend time and reflect on the past 25 years and look to the future with “a common allegiance to Jesus as Lord”.

“We are thankful for all who worked to ensure that the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement could come into place. We are mindful too of all who suffered, and continue to suffer, as a result of needless violence over the decades,” they said.

The Church Leaders Group comprises the Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin, Church of Ireland Primate of all Ireland Archbishop John McDowell, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland Rev David Turtle, and President of the Irish Council of Churches Bishop Andrew Forster.

The group formed in the 1960s in light of the urgency of political developments of the time and have continued to meet regularly since then.

In a statement, Ambassador Frances Collins and Ambassador Chris Trott noted the important role that the churches have played in supporting peace and reconciliation, including in preparing the ground for the successful negotiation of the agreement, facilitating inter-community dialogue and through their ecumenical work promoting “a deeper understanding of the root causes of the conflict”.

“Their invaluable work continues today, as they support and guide communities across Northern Ireland navigating the very serious challenges of living in a post-conflict society,” they said.

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