The following statement is on behalf of the Irish Church leaders: Archbishop Richard Clarke (Church of Ireland); Archbishop Eamon Martin (Catholic Church); the Revd Bill Mullally (President of the Methodist Church in Ireland) and the Very Revd Dr Frank Sellar (former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland), who today are attending centenary commemorations for the Battle of Messines in Belgium:
First World War commemorations took place in Belgium today when representatives from the Irish Churches were among those present who marked the tragedy and futility of war and the searing pain and loss which Irish people from all walks of life encountered one hundred years ago at the Battle of Messines. The battle was the first time that soldiers from both traditions in Ireland, unionist and nationalist, fought side-by-side during the conflict.
At this time, in 2017, when talks among the political parties in Northern Ireland have been postponed until after the UK General Election tomorrow, it seems like an appropriate moment to draw on the words of the Peace Pledge at the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines. It states:
“…We appeal to all people in Ireland to help build a peaceful and tolerant society. Let us remember the solidarity and trust that developed between Protestant and Catholic soldiers when they served together in these trenches … we affirm that a fitting tribute to the principles for which men and women from the Island of Ireland died in both World Wars would be permanent peace.”
It is our hope and prayer that the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland will all do their utmost to build bridges, overcome differences and find constructive ways forward to build on the peace which has been established at home and to continue through the devolved Assembly to provide leadership for the good of all the people of Northern Ireland, irrespective of political or religious background, in the days, months and years ahead.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678