Churches ‘hinder’ Irish peace process

02 November 2006

CHURCHES in Northern Ireland are holding back the peace process, an AmericaEpiscopalian professor and author, Ronald Wells, warned in London on Monday. Hwas speaking at St Ethelburgas Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, which ibased in a church that has been rebuilt after being demolished by an IRA bomin 1993.

Religion "was so much part of the society that caused the enmity, it must bpart of the cure otherwise we will not move beyond the present situation", hsaid. He did not think that Roman Catholics and Protestants who reached out teach other were being supported by their communities. His remarks come aftethe Irish Churches censuring of clerics who shared communion at Drogheda < href="/80256fa1003e05c1/httppublicpages/31c93b8c338dcd5280257156004fcc96?opendocumentNews, 21 an< href=" 0256fa1003e05c1/httppublicpages/cd3d280ba29a606f8025715d0057a7d3?opendocument28="">).

Professor Wells, from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, has written thbiographies of two Belfast clerics who formed a friendship from different sideof the divide: the Clonard monk Fr Gerry Reynolds, and the Minister of FitzroPresbyterian Church, the Revd Ken Newell.

During interviews, they told him: "We thought the hardest thing to do was treach out to the other side, but we had no idea how much of our time we woulhave to look back over our shoulder to reassure our own church communities thaWe are still one of you. Are you? they would ask."

Fr Ryan, a Redemptorist, had not received communion during his visits to MNewells church. But, before the friends were due to receive the Pax Christpeace prize in Dublin in 1999, Fr Ryan "could no longer live with thicontradiction. He said he must either participate in the communion or leave thchurch altogether. He did participate, and he believed he had experienced gracon that day in November, in a way hitherto unknown to him."

Professor Wells described how Mr Newell had received communion in a RomaCatholic church in Dublin. "A small Irishwoman went to receive communionInstead of consuming it, she held the wafer in her hand, and brought it twhere he was. I am six-foot-six, sitting down, and she was four-foot-eightstanding up, and we looked at each other eye-to-eye. She breaks the wafer ihalf and she says to me, "The Body of Christ, for you." And they both receivecommunion."

Professor Wells said: "What keeps them going forward is the vision of whawe want to do, the vision of the Kingdom.

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