Church – stock image.

A prayer service has been organised by the four main churches in Northern Ireland to mark the centenary.

It’s set to take place in Armagh.

However, the centenary event has sparked a row, with Irish President Michael D Higgins stating he will not attend the service.

Higgins said that he declined the offer because he believed it was not politically neutral. He also expressed concerns about the title of the event.

In a statement the Church Leaders said while they acknowledged that what for some is a cause for celebration in the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland, will be for others the centenary of a key moment in the partition of the island, evoking feelings of loss and separation.

For us, as Church Leaders, the centenary opens up opportunities for greater understanding of each other, for further healing and reconciliation between our communities. This centenary also provides the opportunity for us to reflect together on the failings of relationships and use of violence across the whole island which have marred our past and which in some ways continue to cast a shadow on the present. Mindful of our interconnectedness, we recognise our different perspectives on this centenary even among us as Church Leaders. Still we commit ourselves to building a future together in which historic mistrust and division becomes a thing of the past.

The Service of Reflection and Hope will bring people together.

The ongoing risks of COVID-19 will restrict the space for in-person participation, but the service will bring together community representatives from across these islands. It will be underpinned by a Christian vision of reconciliation, which calls us to acknowledge the pain of the past, confess our own failings and commit ourselves to peace in the hope that relationships can be renewed as God reconciled us to himself through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-29).

The Church Leaders added : As people of faith, we stand united at this crossroads looking forward, by the grace of God, to a better and brighter future. We recognise the need to better respect our differences, but we must learn ‘to differ well’ and be prepared to listen and show charity to those with different views and aspirations.

 As we prayerfully prepare for what will be a Christian act of worship we invite as many people as possible to join us in prayer on the day of the service and we hope that it will be a positive and honest contribution, through faith, to peace and healing in this land.

CENTENARY PRAYER

Sovereign, wise and gracious God, in whose hands lie the past, present and future, we acknowledge before you our failures, our divisions, and the hurt we have caused you and one another. Forgive, restore, and heal us. The events of partition and formation, which took place one hundred years ago on this island, changed, shaped, and determined the outlook for this place which we all call home. As we reflect upon those times and bring to mind what happened then and in the years since, we acknowledge before you our different and often polarised interpretations of history. As we travel onwards in our journey, may we learn from the experiences of the past and from those who trod these roads before us, so that the inheritance we pass on to the next generation is the gift of understanding, peace, and hope. In faith we pray, and humbly ask, in the name of him who is the light of the world and giver of all hope, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

  • This statement has been issued on behalf of the Church Leaders Group which comprises the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh and Primates of All Ireland, the Most Rev John McDowell and the Most Rev Eamon Martin respectively; the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Rt Rev Dr David Bruce; the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev Dr Sahr Yambasu and the President of the Irish Council of Churches, the Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson.