Belfast Telegraph

Peace is a treasure - archbishop

Northern Ireland's peace is a treasure which should not be lost, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Justin Welby said the country was a symbol of hope around the world and he urged people not to give up on the "long road" to reconciliation.

He became the first head of the Anglican church to visit the burial place of St Patrick in Downpatrick, Co Down, on St Patrick's Day for 50 years.

"You are a symbol of hope to so many around the world.

"Don't give up - make it work. It is a gift of God to you for the world.

"It is held in your hands as a treasure."

The archbishop made the pilgrimage walk of approximately two miles from Saul, site of one of St Patrick's first churches, to Down Cathedral for a festive service.

Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke, primate of the Church of Ireland, attended the service as well as MP Margaret Ritchie and Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Mitchel McLaughlin.

Over 15 years since the Good Friday Agreement, the impact of the Troubles is still felt across Northern Ireland. More than 3,800 people died, leaving bereaved families, and between 40,000 and 100,000 people were injured.

Dr Welby said: "Despite the difficulties, and there remain huge challenges because reconciliation is a fragile plant that always finds itself in the cold climate of the human heart, and can only be nurtured with the warmth of love, of fellowship, of mutuality of the spirit of God from whom it comes. Despite those challenges you have embarked with enormous courage on the long road to reconciliation and you are a symbol of hope for so many around the world."

He said peace was a treasure of God which touched the whole world. "Peace which starts from within us overflows through our communities."

He said peace needed "prophetic speaking" and must be proclaimed, exemplified by a Presbyterian minister recently attending a Sinn Fein conference.

"It must be proclaimed to transform our society, it must be proclaimed not as something private and inward, not as something we keep in a dark place in the back of our house but as something which is out there, which is full of energy, which changes our world.

"This new nation of Christians that live in this world, two billion strong, bigger than any other, this nation is a political animal. It changes society not just individuals. That is a political act.

"It does not do it by power, as we heard at Saul this morning, it does it through weakness, through fragility, through vulnerability, through love that generates peace.

"We are lights for the world to reveal the hidden sin and the prophetic calls for a new way of being, that is the politics of reconciliation and peace in Christ, not the politics we know at the minute."

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