Following their meeting in Armagh today, the Church Leaders Group have agreed the statement below for immediate publication:
On Good Friday when Jesus was crucified, we are told in the Gospel that darkness covered the whole earth. Our world this Holy Week is overshadowed with the darkness of war and conflict in Ukraine. We have witnessed through the media, the murder and mutilation of innocent civilians, the destruction of homes, shops and hospitals, and the displacement of millions of people. Families, who a matter of months ago were getting on with their everyday lives, are now literally walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
We stand united as Church Leaders in Ireland, with a message of support for the people of Ukraine. As we did when faced with conflict here in our own land, we call for people to pray for peace, to reach out to support the injured and bereaved, and to do all that they can to help and support the victims of unnecessary suffering. We recommit ourselves and our churches to do all that we can to help our sisters and brothers in their hour of need; and call on all world leaders and people of influence to work ever harder to find a way to restore peace, bring about reconciliation and healing. We pray too that those who are intent on war, whose hearts are filled with hatred, may be transformed by the love of God.
During the last two years we have witnessed people coming together in support of one another to fight in a very different battle, against a microscopic virus. People adopted different forms of mitigation and made sacrifices to protect their neighbour from Covid-19. Our journey with coronavirus has taught us much and thankfully there are good signs of recovery. We are conscious too that for many the effects of the virus continue. Many have been very ill, others have suffered the pain of bereavement without family and friends being able to gather for the funeral, others live with the effects of the last two years on mental health or economic circumstances. We have all learnt much about our vulnerability and the fragile nature of human life.
May the Easter message of hope, found in the risen Christ, who banished the darkness and rose victorious in the light of a new dawn, be heard, and realised in Ukraine. May God’s healing grace rest upon the world, its peoples and all who are suffering; and may the unconditional love of God be known, realised and shared, here and everywhere, now and in the days to come.
The Most Reverend Eamon Martin
(Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland)
The Most Reverend John McDowell
(Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland)
The Right Reverend Dr David Bruce
(Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland)
The Reverend Dr Sahr Yambasu
(President of the Methodist Church in Ireland)
The Right Reverend Andrew Forster
(President of the Irish Council of Churches)
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm +353 (0) 87 310 4444.