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Churches join for historic service at Dublin congress

The relationship between Irish Catholics and Protestants has taken a significant step forward as ministers from both churches jointly celebrated a service at a major Catholic event.

The Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson delivered an ecumenical service to thousands of Catholic pilgrims gathered at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

It is only the second time ever, and the first in a generation, that an ecumenical service was celebrated at such a congress.

Unlike a Mass, an ecumenical service is celebrated by multiple denominations to promote Christian unity.

Dr Jackson was joined on the altar by the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Reverend Kenneth Lindsay, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dallas, Dr Brian Farrell.

The Church of Ireland cleric said relations between the Anglican and Irish Catholic churches were now “quite organic” and no longer staged.

“It is no longer a case of leaders meeting and being photographed together,” he said, adding that things were “quite fluid and open”.

At an earlier press conference, Ireland's second most senior Catholic cleric, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, paid tribute to other church leaders in Ireland for the support they had shown him in his role as Archbishop of Dublin.

“Relations between the churches are extremely good here in Ireland,” he said.

Dr Martin said the amount of personal support that he had received from the leaders of the Church of Ireland had been “astounding.”

“We are doing things together. We are, literally, walking together,” he said, adding that both sides needed to face the “challenges of secularisation”.

Earlier, it was standing room only at an address Dr Martin gave to a packed concert hall on the second day of the congress at the RDS, where he spoke of the role of the church in the modern era.

Watching from the sidelines was the embattled All-Ireland primate Cardinal Sean Brady, who heard Dr Martin speak of how a “divided and squabbling church” would never attract younger people but would merely “alienate them further”.

Cardinal Brady, who has faced increased pressure to stand down following revelations about his handling of information relating to the victims of notorious paedophile cleric Fr Brendan Smyth, stood among the latecomers at the side of the packed hall for the duration of the speech.

Dr Martin said a resignation to “keeping things ticking over” had to be resisted in the Church and that there had to be “real change” through a “new evangelisation”.

“There is a real temptation, when faced with the rapidity of change, to take refuge in the notion that ‘there is nothing we can do about it' and just let the thing tick over.

“We will not rebuild or renew the Church simply by letting it tick over,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph