Church of Ireland bishop the Rev Harold Miller says the issues of parading, flags and emblems and the past always have the potential to derail Northern Ireland society.
Bishop Miller, speaking at the annual St Patrick’s Day church celebrations in Downpatrick yesterday, said the difficult issues may not be resolved if they are put at the back of people’s minds rather than facing up to them with all the pain and challenge involved.
“St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, has something to say to all of this. The challenges of Ireland in the fifth century were even greater than they are today, but this one young person was able to paint a picture of a world which was different, and of truly Christian values which had the potential to transform society.
“We celebrate his life and witness in 2014 not just as a story from the past, but as a sign of hope in the present. If we simply cling on to the old divisions of the past, there will not be a future for this place, only a past which repeats itself over and over again.
“We are claiming more for an up-and-coming generation. We want an island where our offspring will be glad to set up home, a place they will be proud of, and a context in which they can flourish.
“That is our prayer this St Patrick’s Day, and we will not give up on that prayer until we see it fulfilled. Politicians, business people, artists, church leaders, all of us need to give ourselves to describing the future in such a way that it becomes more real and attractive than the past,” said Bishop Miller, who welcomed pilgrims to St Patrick’s church at Saul and the nearby Down cathedral.
Holy communion in the historic Saul church was presided over by the Rev Dr Heather Morris, Methodist President, and the preacher was Hadden Wilson, former pastor of Ballynahinch Baptist church.
Later, the festival service in Down Cathedral was conducted by the Rev Alain Emerson, Emmanuel Church, Lurgan and 24–7 Prayer Ireland.
A wreath- laying ceremony was held at St Patrick’s grave,