The leaders of Ireland's main churches have written to Northern Ireland's First and deputy First Ministers this afternoon to welcome the announcement of the beginning of Step 1 of the Northern Ireland Executive's pathway to recovery. In their letter they expressed their appreciation for the careful preparation that preceded this announcement, which included consultation with the Churches about issues relating to places of worship and the Churches' wider community engagement.
Church Leaders' joint statement
"The announcement that we are moving to Step 1 of the pathway is an important and much-needed sign of hope. We welcome the cautious approach adopted by the Executive, which continues to prioritise the protection of health and wellbeing, with particular emphasis on those who are most vulnerable.
"As Church Leaders, we appreciate the recognition in this recovery plan of the importance of the local church, and public worship, in the lives of many people. A great flourishing of creativity and a strong community spirit has enabled local churches to continue to provide pastoral care and social outreach in spite of the restrictions, but there is a strong desire to increase the level of pastoral contact where that can be done safely. In particular, we are keen to respond to the appeals from those who find great comfort in visiting their church for private prayer, from couples who are anxious that they can proceed with their marriage ceremony and from parents who wish to have their child baptised.
"At the same time, we are conscious that the Christian call to be good neighbours is a call to civic responsibility in the protection of public health. As outlined in the Executive's recovery plan, partnership across all sectors of society, in solidarity with the most vulnerable, will be critical to minimising the threat of Covid-19, which is likely to be with us for some time. In our churches, we are currently undertaking risk assessments and putting in place response plans that reflect the unique circumstances of each local context and will be sustainable in the long-term. We are very grateful for the efforts of those who are leading this work on behalf of their congregations.
"Finally, in our letter, we welcomed the opportunity to discuss the importance of protecting social cohesion in plans for recovery. During lockdown, the burden of suffering has not been shared equally, and the benefits of recovery will come more quickly to some than others. One of the signs of hope to emerge from this crisis has been the way local communities have pulled together in support of their most vulnerable members. That same spirit needs to shape a vision for recovery that leaves no one behind."
Rt Rev Dr William Henry
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Most Rev Eamon Martin
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore & Primate of all Ireland
Most Rev John McDowell
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland
Rev Sam McGuffin
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson
President of the Irish Council of Churches
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