Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Legacy of Alec Reid living on in our low-key peacemakers

The mass for Fr Alec Reid at Clonard Monastery in west Belfast this week

The late Fr Alec Reid, who was buried this week, was described by Bishop Noel Treanor at the funeral as "an ambassador of God's peace, mercy and loving kindness".

It was quite a remarkable description of any human life, but the representation of politicians and people from our two main communities at the funeral clearly underlined the wide affection and respect for Fr Reid.

During his decades as a member of the Redemptorist Community in Belfast he made his contribution quietly, but he created headlines when he delivered the last rites to the British plainclothes soldiers who found themselves mistakenly caught up in a republican funeral in west Belfast.

They were abducted in full view of television cameras, brutally beaten and summarily shot. The picture of Fr Reid kneeling over their dead bodies was one of the most ghastly and blood-curdling images of the Troubles.

Alec Reid continued his painstaking work behind the scenes, and he deservedly earned his reputation as one of the key peacemakers in the north. He also played an important role, with former Methodist President Dr Harold Good, in verifying the Provisional IRA's decommissioning of weapons.

Unfortunately, in the same year, Fr Reid temporarily lost the run of himself, by denouncing a number of vociferous protesters at a peace meeting and by referring to past unionists as Nazis. However, he soon apologised, and his reputation as a peacemaker remained secure.

As such, he was one of a number of clerics who followed the honourable tradition of taking courageous initiatives for peace.

These have included the Rev Dr Ray Davey, who founded Corrymeela, and others like Bishop Arthur Butler, Canon Bill Arlow, Presbyterian Clerk of Assembly Dr Jack Weir and the Methodist President, the Rev Dr Eric Gallagher, who met the Provisional IRA at Feakle in an early attempt to broker peace and to prevent thousands of deaths and injuries.

The work of these men, and many women as well, is precisely what people from the churches should be doing – taking risks, thinking the unthinkable, and daring to tread where others fear to go.

So much of this good work by a minority of peacemakers is often overlooked in the general torrent of abuse, often rooted in intolerance and ignorance, which the church receives nowadays.

It is therefore inspiring to be reminded by Bishop Treanor that Alec Reid was such an ambassador for the Christian faith, and to remind ourselves that there were, and are, other heroes like him, and many of them unsung.

However, it is not only clerics who have carried out this crucial role of peacemaking, and still do.

Only last week I attended a remarkable lunch in Belfast City Hall which was, attended by Lord Bannside, Irish President Michael D Higgins and the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor, Councillor Mairtin O Muilleoir, in the presence of hundreds of cross-community peace volunteers.

What impressed me greatly was the low-key nature of the occasion.

There were no protesters inside or outside the city hall, yet this was an event which would not have been possible even a decade ago.

The symbolism was immense, and credit is due to Ian Adamson, president of the Ullans Academy who, with others, organised the lunch to commemorate the Feast of St Columbanus, who is acknowledged by both main traditions in Ireland.

The peacemakers, like Alec Reid, Ian Adamson and many others work quietly, but they do build important bridges.

Thank God for all of them.

CS Lewis honoured

Plaque sums up our great writer

Whoever chose the inscription, summarised superbly the life of Lewis, who once stated:

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen.

"Not only because I can see it, but because by it, I can see everything else."

Historic installation

Female Anglican Bishop's big day

The Rev Pat Storey is making church history today by being installed as the first woman Anglican Bishop in the British Isles.

It is a big challenge for Pat and her family. When I interviewed her on the announcement of her elevation she said, " This is not about me, it's about God."

With that attitude she won't go wrong.

I wish her well.

That says it all.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz