The Northern Catholic Bishops discussed recent developments in Northern Ireland at the Irish Bishops' Conference June meeting and issued the following statement today: At this challenging time in the peace process we wish to reaffirm, as we have consistently done over the years, our unqualified support for a shared future for the people of Northern Ireland based on the principles of equality, shared responsibility and devolved Government established by the Good Friday Agreement. This shared future must be agreed in dialogue, founded on respect for diversity and held together by trust. We regret that the devolved administration could not continue to work effectively in circumstances where there had been a break down in trust between those involved. The crucial issue remains a lack of trust on all sides of the community. We call for a total commitment to restore and indeed enhance that trust. We see the full implementation of the structures provided for by the Good Friday Agreement as essential to the 'achievement of reconciliation, tolerance and mutual respect' (cf. Preamble to the Agreement) and all have a responsibility to make the Agreement work. We wish to express our particular concern at the decision to postpone elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly in May. This decision, coupled with the disturbing allegations in the recent Stevens' Report, has adversely affected the confidence of many in the democratic process. Confidence in the democratic process has to be safeguarded. We are very concerned at the prospect of a dangerous vacuum being created by the failure to allow the electorate express itself democratically. We therefore urge that the Assembly Elections, envisaged for this autumn, will not be further postponed. Elections on their own, however, will not ensure a peaceful future. This can only be achieved by everyone in our society responding fully and positively to the reality and the consequences of a shared future. We welcome, too, the recent publication of the Joint Declaration by the British and Irish Governments. This Declaration contains many elements which are not conditional upon action by others. These should be taken forward immediately as part of the ongoing implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Much has been achieved in recent years. We believe that with courage and integrity, what is still required to secure a just and lasting peace in Northern Ireland can be achieved. We join with what has been said by the other church leaders in their statements and in their call for prayer, that the next few months will see the progress that the people of Northern Ireland both desire and deserve. The Northern Catholic Bishops are: Most Rev Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev Patrick Walsh, Bishop of Down and Connor, Most Rev Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry, Most Rev John Mc Areavey, Bishop of Dromore, Most Rev Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, Most Rev Gerard Clifford, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh, Most Rev Anthony Farquhar, Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor, Most Rev Donal McKeown, Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor and Most Rev Francis Lagan, Auxiliary Bishop of Derry.
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