Northern Ireland urged 'to abandon crippling forces of fear and suspicion'
A senior church figure has called for imaginative and courageous leadership to lift Northern Ireland politics away from fear and stagnation.
Catholic bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor said there was a "lethargic acceptance and tolerance" by people of the current state of affairs in the region.
In a homily delivered at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Carryduff on Sunday morning, the cleric painted a bleak picture of the present political landscape.
He warned of a weak economy; a private sector bereft of dynamic support from political institutions; and a lack of creative political engagement with key issues.
"Our society in Northern Ireland, we as citizens and as a body politic, have urgent need of a renewed narrative for politics," he told the congregation.
His remarks come as the region approaches a year without a functioning powersharing executive.
The rift between the DUP and Sinn Fein looks no closer to resolution, with the real threat of a return to Westminster direct rule looming.
The bishop urged people to work together to banish the forces of fear and suspicion.
"Our times and world context require imaginative and courageous efforts in leadership to hone a vision, freed from fears and suspicions of the other, that carries us energetically as a community of citizens working for the good of all," he said.
"Known for our care for the stranger, for our response to disaster scenarios throughout the world, we urgently need leadership in offering a renewed narrative for a radically new future which is opening before us in a dwindling and every more interdependent world and here at home.
"We need prophetic, imaginative and courageous leadership which offers a new narrative for a dawning and challenging future in which we, all citizens of whatever ethnic, cultural, confessional, religious or other background, constitute together our primary resource and human wealth base.
"To build a viable future for us all, we need urgently and creatively to put our hands together to the plough and to abandon the crippling and stagnating forces of fear and suspicion in the name of building a new future for all citizens, and especially for the weakest and the newly arrived in our society."