I welcome you all here this afternoon.

We come to place, before the Lord, our love, our concern and our worry for the safety of all who travel the roads:

For our own safety and the safety of those who are dear to us,
For the safety of our neighbours and of our companions and of our friends,
For the safety of those who must go out, in all sorts of weather, on very difficult roads, to work and to maintain essential and emergency services;
For the safety of visitors to our country who may be strangers to our ways and our highways and our byways.

I welcome in particular

v Archbishop Harper,
v Dr. John Dunlop,
v Rev Tony Davidson and
v The Reverend David Clements

They are leading us this afternoon in this Service of Prayer for the well being of all who travel on our roads, and for greater care and caution and prudence and respect and courtesy.
I welcome the presence of so many Mayors of towns and Chairs of Councils, Those notified to me were:
o The Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor Maurice Bradley
o The Mayor of Ards, Councillor Robin Drysdale
o The Mayor of Antrim, Councillor Adrian Cochrane-Watson

The Chairs of

o Fermanagh Council – Councillor Alex Baird
o Omagh District Council – Councillor Wilson
o Down District Council – Councillor Eddie Rea and his wife, Mrs Brenda Rea

I welcome also
v The Area Commander of the PSNI, Inspector Ken Mawhinney,
v The President of the Road Safety Council for Northern Ireland, Mr Reggie Semple,
v The Senior Road Safety Officer in Armagh, Mr Cathal McKeever

We salute the work of Road Safety and the fact that you are here is a sign that this concern is felt and shared by so many people.

We applaud the fidelity and generosity and courage of all the emergency services –The Medical Services; The Ambulance Service; The Fire and Rescue Service.

I welcome too the
v Ladies from Girl Guiding Ulster
v The Camlough Brass and Reed Band and the Soloist Trumpeter – Mr Christy Hughes.
v The pupils from Armagh Royal Preparatory School, St. Malachy’s Primary School, Armagh and Armagh Christian Brothers Primary School, are most warmly welcomed. They have specially composed and have read poems for this service and I thank you for all of those poems.
v I welcome Waringstown Handbell ringers and thank them for their performance
v I welcome the Order of Malta
v And all who have made a special effort to be here.

We may be here for a variety of reasons. Some have come out of a sense of duty. You are representing your town or your organisation, and thank you for that.

Others may have come out of a sense of gratitude. You are here to say thanks for the fact that you and your families travel the roads every day safely and, no doubt, you are praying that they will continue to do so.

Others may be here because you, or someone you know, has been involved in an accident and has survived. Perhaps people you love have lost their lives in a road accident – and you are here to remember all of that, and to give thanks for the help you received on that occasion. I suppose we are all here because we know we have to travel the roads, every day, every week, and we want to ask for protection and prudence and guidance and good sense.
I thank the Road Safety Council of Northern Ireland for organising this family service. I am glad that the emphasis is on family. For our families can indeed help us in ensuring that we travel safely on the roads. They can get us up on time. They can make sure that we leave plenty of time for the journey and we don’t have to rush or speed. But I think they can do more than that – they can help to shape our attitudes. They can teach us that we have a right to get respect, not just for our life, but respect for our safety – for our safety of mind and body respect for our health. Of course this is one of the fundamental rights of every human person. Parents and teachers are well aware that they are to educate their children and their pupils about these rights. It is their duty.

All of us have duties in this regard. All of us have the duty to respect the health and life, not just of ourselves, but of others. We all must think of the rights of other road users. Our bodies and our souls are created in the image of God. We are to respect our bodies, neither hating them nor idolising them.

Today we thank God for the gift of all life – our own life and the life of others. We are grateful to all who are trying to save lives and to reduce injuries. We rejoice in the successes achieved and the reduction in the number of accidents. We pray for support and encouragement for all who are working to prevent accidents taking place – the Road Safety Council; the services of security services. We applaud the efforts of all who are making safety training available more widely. We pledge our support for all who are enforcing the Highway Code.

ü We ask pardon for the times we have been impatient on the roads and have ignored the speed limits.
ü We ask pardon for our own impatience with road checks carried out by the security service to ensure safer driving. We recognise that they are introduced for the good of security and safety of all.
ü We ask pardon for the times we were vain and arrogant and yielding to the temptation to show off to other road users.

The passage from the Book of Leviticus which we have just heard, reminds us of Yahweh’s command: To love our neighbour as we love ourselves and it spells out what that involves. That begs the question: How do we love ourselves? How well do we appreciate the gift of life? Something freely given by God, who is the source of all life.

I think that we must begin with an adequate and proper appreciation of the gift of all life. We live in an era where there is thankfully a growing awareness of the preciousness of plant life. People are acutely aware of the threats to plant life by the changes in climate. We also live in an age where we are well aware that certain species of animal life are under threat. The efforts to preserve them are to be highly commended. But we also live at a time when the reverence and respect for animal and plant life sometimes does not appear to be matched by appropriate respect for human life.

On an occasion like this we remind ourselves of the duty of respecting and protecting our lives first and foremost. The Gospel passage that we have just heard tells us not to judge others so that God will not judge us. But we can, and should, judge ourselves. We can, and should, ask ourselves how well do we appreciate the gift of our lives and the gift of good health.

Do we thank God sufficiently for all the miles we have travelled safely?
Have we enough honesty and courage to admit that, at times, we have taken chances which could have put at risk our own lives and the lives of others by driving recklessly, at too high a speed, by driving when we were tired or not in a fit condition to do so?

The Road Safety Council asks us to raise our awareness of the dimensions of this urgent problem. It hopes for a greater sense of responsibility on the part of all who use the roads. This demands of us that we try to understand the root causes of this problem and that we do all in our power to eliminate them.

We are talking here about human lives – a most precious gift – a gift that is to be welcomed with love, tended with care and guarded with devotion. We need to pass those values on by our words but, above all, by our example.