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'I'm sorry we didn't do more to become peacemakers', says Archbishop of Armagh during NI Centenary church service

by Kelly Valencia

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland, the Most Rev John McDowell, has said he is sorry church leaders did not do more to achieve peace during The Troubles. 

Archbishop John made the remarks while delivering a reflection at a church service in Armagh to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the formation of Northern Ireland. 

He said: "As a church leader I am sorry that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we didn't do more to become peacemakers, or at least to speak peace into the situation. 

"Too often we allowed the attitudes around us to shape our faith, rather than the other way round. That's certainly what I mean when I say we have too often been captive churches." 

Organised by The Church leaders' Group (Ireland), the service was also attended by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney. 

Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, was also invited but rejected the invitation saying that the service had become too 'politicised'. 

Children and young people played key roles during the service.
Local school children formed a welcoming reception for the guests as they entered the Cathedral grounds, a choir of children from the area performed two songs and Billy Smith, a student at Armagh High School, carried a lantern containing a flame symbolising the 'Light of Hope' and presented it to the church leaders.

The Most Rev Eamon Martin, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland, the Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson, President of the Irish Council of Churches, also delivered their own personal reflections. 

Archbishop Eamon said he feels "deep loss and sadness" when looking back "on what happened on this island in 1921" and added that when reflecting on it as church leader he faces "the difficult truth that perhaps we in the churches could have done more to deepen our understanding of each other and to bring healing and peace to our divided and wounded communities".

"That is why I stand here today, as a disciple of Jesus, with my brothers and sisters in faith, hopeful and committed to doing what we can to build a better future for all, a future in which mistrust and division can become things of the past," he continued. 

Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, said: "I grieve the times when fear has held us back from building relationships with those with whom we differ.

"If we are to build a better future, then we must recognise our own woundedness and our responsibility to care for the wounds of one another."

Adding his personal reflection too, the President of the Irish Council of Churches, Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson said:

"While it is important that we continue to show leadership to our young people by coming together as Church Leaders, we recognise that our failure, even to talk well together about the ways in which the past continues to affect us all, hampers them in addressing that unfinished work of peace so important for the future."

The President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Dr Sahr Yambasu delivered the sermon.  

"Today, we are marking a point in our history."

"We have come a long way - not just a century but centuries. So, this service provides us with an opportunity to give thanks and, also, lament; to imagine what could be, and to choose the way forward that can be mutually beneficial." 

Originally from Sierra Leone, he is the first African-born leader of one of Ireland's main churches. 

The Queen had been due to attend the service but was told to rest by a medical team. 

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