In an interview broadcast on KTOTV on February 13, 2013, the French Catholic television station, the Irish Chaplain Fr Sean Maher spoke about the increasing peace, solidarity, and charity among the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Fr Sean spoke about how the people in the Republic of Ireland had prayed for peace during the Troubles in the 1970s and 1980s. When it looked like it might have been impossible to achieve, new hope began to emerge in the 1990s culminating in the Good Friday Agreement which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.
While there continues to be difficulties and occasional outbreaks of violence, Fr Sean gave a couple of examples of where the people are discretely living together in a spirit of solidarity. He cited a cousin of his mother who is a religious in Antrim and is helped by her mainly Protestant neighbours. Of the young people who go to the Benedictine Rostrevor Monastery in Co. Down to experience a comptemplative life 90 percent are from the Protestant community.
Even through the depths of the Troubles there were signs of peace and reconciliation. Bishop Noel Traenor of Down & Connor gave the example of the Clonard Monastery in Belfast run by the Redemptorists that looked for ways of mediating between the communities. Fr Sean spoke about the Redemptorist Fr Alec Reid who was very active in the peace process. In 1988 he gave the last rites to two British soldiers who were killed in Belfast.
Fr Sean also spoke about the role of the Irish bishops in renewing the Catholic Church in Ireland. With the recent appointments of three new bishops – Cloyne, Limerick and Armagh – their role will be to bring peace and reconciliation, and to restore the confidence of society in the Church.
You can watch the 26 minutes interview (in French) with Fr Sean on the KTOTV website.