The leaders of Ireland’s main churches have welcomed the agreement reached between Northern Ireland’s political parties, the UK and Irish Governments on Friday.
In their statement, the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches said: "The principles of accountability, transparency and responsibility, identified in the agreement are crucial to underpinning sustainable government and ensuring that the experience of the last three years cannot happen again.
“Along with the development of trust and generosity of spirit, these measures offer an opportunity to build a peaceful and just society that is centred around respect and recognition of each other’s cultural identity."
The Assembly will sit once again at 1pm on Saturday - a plenary session that will see the election of a DUP First Minister and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister along with a team of ministerial colleagues.
The wide-ranging deal, which was published by the governments on Thursday night, contains compromise solutions to the vexed disputes at the heart of the 36-month powersharing impasse, such as legislative provisions for Irish language speakers. It will also be accompanied by what the UK Government has promised will be a major investment package.
The church leaders added that the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal is focused on the “common good” and brings optimism for the future.
“Today is a sign of welcome progress that provides an opportunity for a new start for Northern Ireland’s political institutions and one that can also offer fresh hope,” they said.
“The story of the Christian faith is one of new beginnings, where failure is never final, second chances abound, and all things can be renewed. We will continue to offer our prayers for all involved in making this agreement work, encouraging them, for the sake of the whole community, to grasp fully this new opportunity.”
The leaders have been vocal about the need for restored power-sharing ever since the deadlock started, highlighting how the stalemate impacts citizens and the role the Church plays in helping to reach a solution.
“We therefore renew our commitment to supporting the new Executive as it begins its work, and along with others in civic society, recognise our collective responsibility for the common good,” they said.