January 21, 1998, 8.00 pm

“All who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God”.

Your Excellency,
Your Eminence,
Distinguished guests,
Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,

I welcome you all to this Inter-Church Service to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

I welcome President McAleese on this, her first official visit to Armagh as President. I thank her for her presence.

I welcome the Lord Lieutenient for Co. Armagh, Lord Caledon.

I welcome the Speaker – Bishop Paul Verschuren – Bishop of Helsinki.

Bishop Verschuren, a native of Holland has worked as a missionary in Finland for very many years. He has been interested in and has worked for Ecumenisim for a long time.

I welcome the President of the Methodist Conference, Dr. Norman Taggart, The President of the Irish Council of Churches, Rev. David Nesbitt, Dean Cassidy, representing Archbishop Eames and Rev. Tony Davidson representing the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Rev. Sam Hutchinson.

The theme of this week is taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans:

“All who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God”.

We come to pray in a sense of deep unity with those whom the Spirit is moving and inspiring all over the world to come together and pray for the same intention at this time.

We pray that the prayers of Christ at the Last Supper may be fulfilled, that they all may be One.

We pray in a spirit of gratitude for the progress that has been made during this century and particularly during the last quarter of the century to heal the wounds and divisions which openly contradict the Will of Christ.

We thank God for the seventy-five years of the Irish Council of Churches and for the twenty-five years of the Irish Inter-Church meetings.

The Spirit comes to help us
– in our moments of weak faith
– to strengthen our belief in prayer as the means par excellence and the soul of the whole Ecumenical Movement.

The Spirit helps us to renew our conviction that:

– what unites us as followers of Christ is stronger than what divides.
– that what we have in common is far greater than what separates us.

The Spirit comes to help us in our moments of fading hope, to encourage us never to lose sight of our final goal – what gives meaning and value to life. But also to commit ourselves again and again to work to bring about the changes which are needed to make our lives and our society correspond to God’s plans in a society of forgiveness, justice and peace.

The Spirit comes to help us in our weaknesses at this particularly difficult time in the history of our land.
We ask the Spirit to never let us forget that those who wish peace and justice and reconciliation are stronger than those who want violence and injustice and hatred.

We ask the Spirit to remind us that those who want peace and reconciliation outnumber those who oppose them. We must not forget that fact and we must stand in solid support of the peacemakers.
We ask the Spirit to help us to be:

STRONG in our support of the peacemakers.
RESOLUTE in our opposition to violence in all its forms.
DETERMINED in our search for a just and lasting settlement of our problems.
PATIENT in the face of every trial and
HOPEFUL at all times.

We remember in our prayers this evening all those who have been murdered in recent weeks. We pray for those who mourn them and we beg God that these evil and brutal killings may come to an end.