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Charles points to Irish peace in appeal for reconciliation in the Balkans

By Nina Massey

Published 18/03/2016

Prince Charles speaks at a reception at the Serbian Parliament
Prince Charles speaks at a reception at the Serbian Parliament

The Prince of Wales expressed "despair at the pointless cruelty" in the world as he made a speech on reconciliation, referencing his beloved uncle Lord Mountbatten.

Charles gave the speech at a reception hosted by the speaker of the Serbian parliament, Maja Gojkovic. It was held to celebrate British women on the Serbian front line in World War One.

Speaking on St Patrick's Day, the Prince spoke about the 1979 killing of Lord Mountbatten, who died when the IRA blew up his boat off Mullaghmore. Nicholas Knatchbull, the earl's 14-year-old grandson, and his friend Paul Maxwell, a schoolboy from Enniskillen, were also killed.

Charles said: "In 1979 my dearly loved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, died in a bomb attack, along with his grandson and others. I feel I have at least some understanding of the heartrending anguish that so many families in this region have experienced through the loss of loved ones.

"But after many years of reflection and despair at the pointless cruelty and destruction we witness around the world, my own conclusion is this: that only reconciliation offers the assurance that our children and grandchildren will not suffer the same agonies.

"In Ireland, the lives of people in both parts of the island and of both communities have been changed immeasurably for the better by the peace agreement signed in 1998. It is my hope that the countries of the western Balkans will be similarly changed by your quest for enduring peace.

"It requires courage; a courage we must all try to summon from the depth of our souls, however great the pain. There is so much to build on here. You have the most wonderful traditions of hospitality and religious tolerance."

Last May Charles made a poignant pilgrimage to the picturesque harbour village where his great uncle was murdered by the IRA, and the prince was warmly greeted as he arrived in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo.

Ahead of the evening reception in Serbia, the prince and Duchess of Cornwall made a number of stops, beginning the day at a cultural market in Novi Sad.

Crowds gathered in the square to see the royal couple and cheered and applauded as Charles and Camilla walked through, occasionally stopping to shake hands.

They also visited the Matica Srpska gallery where the prince turned his hand to art restoration. He was shown the gallery's conservation studio, which is currently working on the Iconostasis of the Serbian Church in Budapest and, on being shown one of the pieces in the process of being cleaned, he was invited to have a go.

He picked up a tool and began gently scraping at the surface, saying: "This is very exciting. It's amazing. You have to be careful."

After enjoying himself for a short time, he laughed and said "I'd better not do too much" before putting the implement down.

During the afternoon the Prince visited the Kovilj Monastery, where he was met by its abbot, Father Isihije Hesychios. At the monastery Charles took some time to speak to addicts who have used the monastery's rehabilitation programme.

The project is free and aims to encourage the cessation of drug use by taking participants away from an addictive environment and encouraging recovery through manual labour and community service.

After hearing from some of the service users, Charles was shown where the monastery makes candles and brandy.

He tried a number of different types of the spirit, describing the plum brandy as "special".

Belfast Telegraph

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