By Sarah Mac Donald - 01 January, 2014
The Church of Ireland Primate has said he is “deeply disappointed” that full agreement between the five political parties of Northern Ireland on the Haass proposals has not been reached.
However, in a statement issued on Tuesday, Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh said he still hopes for “future rapprochement.”
Archbishop Clarke said the Church of Ireland was “truly grateful to the huge efforts” put in by Dr Richard Haass, Professor Meghan O’Sullivan and their team.
He continued, “We continue to pray that their careful groundwork will indeed come to valuable fruition in the future.”
Referring to the biblical concept of forbearance, Archbishop Clarke said it was not the same as patience, although it is clearly associated with it.
“Forbearance essentially means not demanding everything we believe we could legitimately or even reasonably demand of another person; it is a ‘holding back’ of ourselves in a spirit of generosity.”
The leader of the Church of Ireland said forbearance describes God’s dealings with humankind and it is what God therefore demands of us in our dealings with one another.
“A spirit of forbearance within us all is assuredly a prerequisite to a good and wholesome future in 2014 for Northern Ireland,” he said.
Recalling Dr Haass’ use of a phrase some days ago when he said that the time had come “to fish or cut bait”, Archbishop Clarke said the origins of the phrase in the nineteenth century suggested a third option – “to fish, cut bait, or leave the boat”.
“Further time cutting bait may be necessary for our political leaders but none must metaphorically leave the boat,” he underlined.
Calling down God’s blessing on all in the coming year, the Anglican Primate said the people of Northern Ireland “deserve a renewed and strenuous collaborative effort for an authentic peace from all those involved in its political processes.”
Separately, in an article in the Irish Times, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, said that in their meeting with Dr Haass, the representatives of the Catholic Church acknowledged that there had been “stagnation in the effort to consolidate peace in recent years.”
“It is clear from the modus and scope of the initiative undertaken by Richard Haass and his team that this call to creative, constructive and courageous leadership is not limited to politicians,” Bishop Treanor wrote.
He also suggested that there had been “disengagement by many in churches and other important sources of civil leadership from the practical work of reconciliation” and this may be due in part to o churches becoming more consumed with their own pressing internal matters.
“We also expressed concern that the two dominant parties in the North were inclined to underappreciate the importance of involving churches, and other key sources of social and bonding capital outside of politics, in initiatives to sustain a reconciled and humanly flourishing society,” Bishop Treanor commented in his Rite and Reason article.
He recalled the words of that “great Irish artisan of peace and visionary of a reconciled Europe”, St Columbanus, who wrote over 1,400 years ago “The knowledge that peace is good is of no benefit to us if we do not practise it.”
Bishop Treanor said that in the Haass initiative, the people of Northern Ireland “have glimpsed a new possibility that calls us to reignite that passion for peace, reconciliation and genuine human flourishing for all, not just our ‘own’ that is at the very heart of our call as followers of Jesus.”
Referring to Pope Francis’ message for World Day of Peace on New Year’s Day, Bishop Treanor said the Pontiff speaks of the “good news that demands from each one a step forward, a perennial exercise of empathy, of listening to the suffering and hopes of others, even those further away from me”.
The Pope, he said, remind us that “people’s legitimate ambitions (for peace), especially in the case of the young, should not be thwarted or offended, nor should people be robbed of their hope of realising them”.
“The history of the peace process and the transformation in relationships between Britain and Ireland enabled by president McAleese and Queen Elizabeth, to be consolidated by the first state visit of President Higgins to Britain later in the new year, shows us that extraordinary things can happen when leaders, at every level, allow themselves to be led by the highest ideals and most creative hopes of the society they serve,” the Bishop of Down and Connor said.