Belfast Telegraph

Church leaders use Easter messages to promote need for healing in world of crises

Archbishop Richard Clarke with Archbishop Eamon Martin
Archbishop Richard Clarke with Archbishop Eamon Martin
Presbyterian Moderator Dr Charles McMullen
Dean of Belfast Stephen Forde
Alf McCreary

By Alf McCreary

The theme of hope at a time of worry and negativity is central to this year's Easter messages from the leaders of the main Irish Churches.

A series of services for Holy Week have been held across Northern Ireland and continue into the weekend.

Today a three-hour service from noon to 3pm is being conducted in St Anne's Cathedral by Bishop Bob Gillies, the retired Anglican Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney.

Many dawn services will also be held on Easter morning, and the cathedral will open on Easter Tuesday at 11am for Belfast's biggest indoor Easter egg hunt.

Dean Stephen Forde predicted the cathedral will be packed with children of all ages and encouraged them "to explore the meaning of Easter with and beyond the world of chocolate".

Ahead of the celebrations, Church leaders issued their traditional messages.

In a joint statement, Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke and the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin reflected on the need for healing.

They said: "Regardless of personal opinions on the various crises in Ireland, Britain and Europe, and throughout the world, no reasonable person can seriously doubt the levels of anxiety, anger and divisiveness that are corroding human relationships within and through society, and even within close-knit families.

"We must not only pray for the healing of relationships. We must also work fearlessly as 'Easter people' for the restoration of hope and good relationships with one another and within a wider society.

"The Easter power is something immensely energetic... and not simply an intellectual assent to the truth of the resurrection of Christ.

"In the power of Christ's resurrection, we are Christian disciples called to bring hope and purpose into our own lives, and into the lives of others.

"We can do this by our generous love and unflagging courage in words and actions, in our sense of positive purpose and in our adamant refusal just to let things happen."

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Charles McMullen emphasised that, despite all the negative headlines that surround people, there is a better story.

"Jesus Christ makes available his incomparably great power to all who believe," he said.

"As we recount the individual stories of Easter, we experience the same resurrection of life being imparted to despairing disciples as they discover that the tomb in which Christ was buried is now empty.

"There is so much of our society that needs the same resurrection life and power, a vision for a better future.

"Politics in Northern Ireland show signs of increasing polarisation and the impasse at Stormont has meant that our schools and hospitals are not receiving the vital attention that they deserve.

"There are many unresolved peace and reconciliation issues from the Troubles and Brexit negotiations are continually stalling, while homelessness and economic deprivation seen in the proliferation of food banks are among some of the most urgent issues needing to be addressed on our island home.

"Sadly, for whatever reason, many live in the gloom of the tomb rather than in the glorious hope of Easter Sunday and its better story. The good news is that Jesus still moves those stones of stress and anxiety, hatred and resentment, heartache, suspicion and distrust.

"To all who are seeking to remove the stones that divide and build relationships for the common good, I want to offer my heartfelt support and encouragement.

"There are so many in the service of the caring professions, in business, politics, police and emergency services, voluntary sectors, education and church ministry, who do not make headlines but who make such a difference - they are unsung heroes and wonderful influences for good."

Methodist president Rev Billy Davison said Easter is a "good news" story that can transform the "whole direction of your life".

He added: "The heart of the message is that Christ triumphed over all the attacks of evil that were levelled against him in his crucifixion.

"Sadly, the world we live in continues to manifest evil events perpetrated by those intent on violent crime. The horrendous knife crime in London is one example of the disregard some have for human life.

"The message of Easter is that Jesus died in our place on the cross to show us how much God loves us and how precious we all are to him, and he arose from the dead to assure us of ultimate victory over death."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph