The Dean of Belfast has spoken out about next week’s events to mark the signing of the Ulster Covenant.
He told a congregation of senior unionist politicians, community leaders and members of the public that there is an opportunity to treat 2012 as a significant watershed, and that next weekend’s events will illustrate whether or not the community is ready to do so.
The Very Reverend John Mann was speaking at St Anne’s Cathedral during an Evensong service to mark the centenary of the signing.
He said: “We have a chance to celebrate and remember a crucial moment in the history of this place, that showed the determination of a generation of the Protestant people of this island to shape their own destiny.”
He added: “Now, in a different age we may do the same, but today we do it with everyone: to seek to be two traditions in one community, not limping with one leg stronger than the other, but walking together, not just the length of ourselves, but to the top of the mountain that we need to move.”
A central part of the service was a short Act of Commitment and Dedication as the signing of the Ulster Covenant was recalled,
and a candle of “hope and celebration” was lit beneath the Spire of Hope.
Dean Mann also referred to Lord Edward Carson, who led the resistance to home rule and whose remains are buried inside the cathedral.
He said: “Every day I walk past Edward Carson’s tomb — a few people have claimed to see him here.”
The congregation included the Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast Dame Mary Peters, and Belfast Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson, as well as the First Minister Peter Robinson.
Also present were the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and the former leader Sir Reg Empey.
There were several Stormont ministers and former ministers in the congregation, including Nelson McCausland, Nigel Dodds, along with his MEP wife Diane, and Jonathan Bell as well as Danny Kennedy of the UUP.
Lessons were read by the Presbyterian Moderator, the Rt Reverend Dr Roy Patton, and by the Reverend Donald Ker, representing the Methodist President the Reverend Kenneth Lindsay.
No official representatives of the Catholic Church or the nationalist and republican parties were in the cathedral.
At the beginning of the service there was a period of silence in support of the Spence family and also of the families of the policemen who were murdered in Manchester last week.
Music was provide by the Cathedral choir as well as the Murley Silver Band and the Adoro Choir.