Top clerics join forces to send out a message of hope for Holy Week
Northern Ireland's church leaders have spoken of the Easter message of hope in their traditional Holy Week messages.
In a joint statement, the Church of Ireland Primate the Most Rev Richard Clarke and the Roman Catholic Primate the Most Rev Eamon Martin have called on people to reflect God's mercy in the way in which they live their lives, however imperfectly.
The church leaders said: "There are those around us who are fearful and lonely, and who feel little hope for themselves or their families.
"There are those further afield who have lost everything and who are the recipients only of suspicion and even hatred."
And they added: "We cannot simply stand aloof, if we claim the name of Christ."
The Presbyterian Moderator the Rt Rev Dr Ian McNie said that for generations the unique event of Easter had transformed people's lives.
"One indisputable fact associated with the Easter Rising of two millennia ago has been the phenomenal growth of the Christian Church, leaving us in no doubt that Christ's resurrection has taken the world by storm, drawing people from every age and generation to the Gospel of God's Grace."
He added that the Christian Church "has been entrusted with a responsibility and a message that no other institution or organisation has been called to share."
The Methodist President the Rev Brian Anderson said that "one of the great joys of Easter is the message of hope. This is something which Christians around the world instinctively understand".
He said that people "have been deeply concerned with the deaths of homeless people in shop doorways in Dublin and Belfast, but many Christians are endeavouring to bring the resurrection hope by walking the streets late at night to make sure that the homeless are warm and have food. Others offer this hope, through working at food banks, giving free debt advice, serving in shelters, and in a host of other ways."
Dean of Belfast the Very Rev John Mann asked: "Away from the eggs, chicks, spring flowers and fluffy bunnies, and the hype of advertisers and retailers, what is there to say of depth and meaning in a world that avoids deep thinking but seeks solace in fantasy, sport and celebrity?"
He said: "We rejoice on Easter Day as on no other. We seek to live the faith of a risen saviour by being his eyes and ears and hands and feet, to pray and work for peace and justice, reconciliation and compassion in a world where hatred and violence need the challenge of the God of love."