The Bishop of Down and Connor and a priest whose church has become a parading flashpoint were among members of the Catholic clergy who held talks with senior figures from the Protestant loyal orders on Wednesday.
Bishop Noel Treanor and the Rev Michael Sheehan, administrator of St Patrick’s Church on Belfast’s Donegall Road, met Grand Master of the Orange Order Edward Stevenson and Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution Millar Farr.
The Rev Timothy Bartlett, secretary to the northern Bishops, was also in the clerical delegation that was invited to the Orange Order’s temporary headquarters on Belfast’s Newtownards Road.
The meeting comes ahead of the start of another marching season and fears trouble will return to the streets of Northern Ireland.
The front of St Patrick’s on Donegall Street has become a scene of contention in recent years, with allegations of provocative behaviour by passing bandsmen leading to a number of Parades Commission restrictions on subsequent parades.
A spokesman from the Orange Order said today’s discussions focused on the issue of “religious freedom in a secular society”.
He said the clergy were also given a presentation on the Orange institution’s educational outreach programme and its plans to develop two new interpretative centres in Belfast and Loughgall.
“All parties agreed the meeting was helpful, allowing a useful exchange of views and committed themselves to further engagement,” said the spokesman.
Other loyal order representatives present included the Rev Alistair Smyth, Deputy Grand Master of the Orange Order; Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary; Jack Greenald, Grand Treasurer; Raymond Spiers, Assistant Grand Master; George Chittick, Grand Master of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast and Billy Scott, Imperial Grand Registrar of the Royal Black Institution.