North-South relations “strained” by Brexit and the centenarians – Presbyterian Moderator

North-South relations and those between Ireland and the UK have been “strained” by Brexit and by attempts to mark this year’s centenarians, the Presbyterian moderator said.

Referring to the controversy that followed President Michael D Higgins’ decision to decline an invitation to attend an intercommunal church service in Armagh marking the centenary of the partition and formation of Northern Ireland, Dr David Bruce a stated that “of course we understand the sensitivities surrounding these birthdays.

“We had hoped, as a group of church leaders from major Christian traditions here, that bringing together representatives from the UK and Ireland at the highest level, as well as local political leaders and others, would have was able to offer a significant public demonstration of a common commitment. to peace, reconciliation and hope for the future.

“However, we remain committed to ensuring that these values ​​are at the forefront of our engagement with governments,” he said.

Dr Bruce was speaking at the opening service for worship at the Presbyterian Church of the General Assembly of Ireland, which began Monday in Belfast.

He was officially re-elected as moderator while in service, the first time since 1894 that a moderator served a second term.

Ministers and elders from more than 500 congregations across Ireland are in Belfast for the General Assembly, which is taking place for the first time in two years due to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the General Assembly, which runs through Wednesday, they will debate and vote on issues affecting church and society, including gender identity and sexuality, as well as climate change and disengagement of fossil fuels.

Members will also be asked to express their “continued support for the decentralized institutions in Northern Ireland” and their “serious concern over the undermining of the decentralization regulation” by the Northern Secretary through the introduction of Westminster legislation on l abortion and culture, as well as regarding the UK government’s new approach to dealing with the legacy of unrest.

In his speech, Dr Bruce spoke of the prospect of “some sort of separate process which, on the balance of probabilities, has offered an outcome which, although outside of a criminal conviction, may nonetheless provide a certain degree of fence ”for the victims.

He said it had been reported to him that some families “might find solace and even some degree of resolution” in a process like this.

“In light of the command document which was issued [by the UK government] a few months ago this might be welcomed by many, although the government might need to be more persuaded, ”he said.

In his speech Dr Bruce said that as a “pro-life church” it was a “big disappointment” that the Northern Secretary proposed to introduce legislation legalizing abortion in Northern Ireland , and that the church “remain determined to voice our opposition to this.”

He also described a “real concern” about the assisted suicide bill that had been submitted to the Oireachtas.

“The passage of the bill has been halted, which is kind of a victory… another bill will come, and probably also a parallel campaign will be launched in Northern Ireland to question what we see as the special feature. , the sacredness, the holiness of human life, ”he said.

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