Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace
From Lambeth Palace
Archbishop Justin Welby preached on reconciliation during the first St Patrick's Day visit to Downpatrick by an Archbishop of Canterbury in 50 years.
During the visit Archbishop Welby preached at Down Cathedral and was to meet with young people from across the Protestant-Catholic divide to encourage them to be peacemakers in their different walks of life.
The Archbishop, who has made reconciliation a key priority for his ministry, is the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 50 years to visit the burial place of St Patrick in Downpatrick, County Down, on St Patrick's Day.
He was visiting County Down as a guest of Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller.
The Archbishop preached on the theme of reconciliation at Down Cathedral at a festive service attended by the primate of the Church of Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke, as well as MP Margaret Ritchie, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Mitchel McLaughlin, and Justice Minister and Alliance party leader David Ford.
In his sermon the Archbishop said: "The world needs the witness of those who have made the journey from enemy to friend, who are no longer strangers and aliens, who are being built together into an altogether different community in the household of God. And if there is any community who knows this, not simply in heads but in hearts, it is here in Northern Ireland.
"There remain huge challenges, because reconciliation is a fragile flower that always finds itself in the cold climate of the human heart, and can only be nurtured by 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 the symbol of hope for so many around the world. Don’t give up. Make it work. It is a gift of God toyouforthe world. It is held in your hands as a treasure. It is something that comes from the peace of God.”
After the service the Archbishop laid a wreath on St Patrick’s grave before joining a parade through Downpatrick attended by an estimated 30,000 people.
The Archbishop made the two-mile pilgrimage walk to Down Cathedral from Saul, site of one of St Patrick's first churches, where he presided at a service of Holy Communion.
In the morning the Archbishop also joined the World Methodist Vice-President, Gillian Kingston, at Downpatrick Methodist Church to launch a new cooperation plan for the Anglican and Methodist Churches.
In the evening he was to speak to around 300 young people involved in peace work, at an event to encourage those aged 16-30 with a faith perspective to make their voices heard.
Today in conclusion of the visit, the Archbishop was to have breakfast with 20-30 year olds working in politics, business, Church, media and academia. The event aims to inspire young leaders to be peacemakers in their various spheres of influence, across the Protestant-Catholic divide, but also peacemakers with respect to conflict with refugees, with other faiths and in other areas of society and civic life.
[Editor’s note: Report on the Anglican-Methodist cooperation plan to follow.]