Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness: Religious leaders focus on a life of two halves

By Noel McAdam

Church leaders have paid tribute to the role Martin McGuinness played in the peace process - but also stressed his past in the Provisional IRA must be recognised.

Presbyterian Moderator Rt Rev Dr Frank Sellar said: "Few public figures have made such a journey from violence to peace as Martin McGuinness and many people will acknowledge the contribution and commitment to the common good which he made in the latter part of his life."

Church of Ireland Primate Dr Richard Clarke said most people would have great difficulty connecting the two halves of Mr McGuinness's adult life. "That having been said (and it must be said), while recognising the hurt, fear and misery brought into hundreds of other lives in the first part of that life, we should also convey proper appreciation of the immense statesmanlike qualities that Martin McGuinness brought into the political life of Northern Ireland in recent years," the Archbishop said.

"He displayed both real courage and a genuine openness to those of different political viewpoints from his own."

The Methodist President said Mr McGuinness's "commitment to peace and reconciliation was a journey of immense courage, determination and humility".

Rev Bill Mullally added: "As talks on the restoration of power-sharing continue, let us honour Martin McGuinness's legacy by redoubling our efforts to mend broken relationships by holding out hands of friendship and working out our differences with respect for each other so that we can move ever closer towards a tolerant, compassionate and peaceful future for all."

Catholic Church Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin said he would remember Mr McGuinness as someone "who chose personally to leave behind the path of violence and to walk instead along the more challenging path of peace and reconciliation".

"As a leader he was courageous and took risks in order to bring others with him, convincing them that goals could be achieved by politics and persuasion. He channelled his many gifts into creating and sustaining the peace process, of which he was one of the key architects.

"I have no doubt that Martin's faith and relationship with God guided him along this journey. He was a man of prayer and I am personally grateful for his good wishes and encouragement to me, as a fellow Derry man, in my own vocation."

Catholic Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown said: "Martin McGuinness played a uniquely significant role in the life of this society for almost 50 years. Martin's role in moving Northern Ireland from conflict to politics has been immense. Others will have more painful memories of how their lives were affected."

Peter Lynas, Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "I met Martin on a number of occasions and he talked about his relationship with Ian Paisley, his own faith and his desire for reconciliation. It is well known that the two prayed together and discussed faith. Martin always seems to have struggled with his own violent past, but he also took the republican movement on a journey away from violence."

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