Archbishop of Canterbury praises Northern Ireland's peacemakers on Clonard visit
The Archbishop of Canterbury has paid a visit to Clonard Monastery along with more than 60 members of the Church of England clergy.
Archbishop Justin Welby visited the Belfast monastery yesterday as part of a private pilgrimage on peace and reconciliation.
The head of the Church of England, who was installed in the role in 2013 after less than two years as a bishop, was welcomed to Belfast by Fr Noel Kehoe, rector of Clonard.
Recalling the important contributions of peacemaker priests Fr Alec Reid and Fr Gerry Reynolds, who played significant roles in the peace process, Fr Kehoe said: "Their legacy is of great importance. It teaches us that in life, in mission, and especially in peace-building, hospitality creates space for God to work. So our welcome to you today is not a mere formality, or good etiquette.
"Rather, it is an invitation, a prayer, that in the short time you spend with us today, we may be deeply conscious that Divine friendship makes of us friends and fellow pilgrims."
Speaking about the ongoing political crisis in Northern Ireland, Fr Kehoe described "a failure in hospitality... a going out to meet the other to discover, in friendship, a common good. The open space is narrowing, and leadership is found wanting."
He added: "At the heart of our division is a question of identity. I am British, I am Irish, my culture, my tradition, my language, my flag, my tribe. But a great number of those people who would lead us to exclusive camps also identify themselves as Presbyterian, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist. Our churches have a great responsibility that requires leaders to risk."
Fr Kehoe asked the Archbishop and the pilgrims "to pray for responsible leadership in politics and pray for courageous leadership in the churches" - which he believes have an important role in modelling a "leadership of hospitality."
After praying with members of the community in the church off the Falls Road in the west of the city, Archbishop Welby presented the congregation with an illustration from a ninth century Irish book of the gospel that hangs in Lambeth Palace.
He was presented with a handpainted icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in whose honour the annual summer novena attracts more than 10,000 people a day.
Fr Ciaran O'Callaghan and Ed Petersen of Clonard's Peace and Reconciliation ministry then accompanied the pilgrims on a prayer walk of the peace walls.
Prayers were offered for both communities, for victims of violence, for peacemakers, and for those "we call enemies".