Dawn services held across NI

Easter Sunday Dawn Service outside St Patrick's Church of Ireland Drumbeg, south of Belfast
Easter Sunday Dawn Service outside St Patrick's Church of Ireland Drumbeg, south of Belfast
  • Thousands of Presbyterians, Anglicans and other denominations gather at numerous venues
  • Pope Francis presides at late night vigil service in Rome
  • Prime Minister David Cameron urges Britain to “be proud this is a Christian country”

Dawn services to mark Easter Sunday have been held across Northern Ireland.

One of the traditional ways to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ was observed at various locations in the Province.

Happy Easter friends and family. Celebrate a living Saviour. Christ is risen indeed

Rev Willie Nixon, Drumbeg

Thousands of Presbyterians, Anglicans and other denominations gathered at numerous venues, including both churches and non-church settings.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland said: “The dawn service has grown to become a popular way of marking Christ’s Resurrection in a more visible way, highlighting the importance of this day in the Christian calendar and people’s personal faith.”

The sun rose in Belfast at 6.44am, and many of the services commenced just before that, at 6.30am, or just after at 7am.

Presbyterian services were held at locations including Spelga Dam near Newcastle, Bolaght Mountain near Castlederg, and Ballintoy Harbour.

Among the Anglican churches that annually marks the dawn on Easter Sunday was St Patrick’s Church of Ireland at Drumbeg, south of Belfast.

The minister, Rev Willie Nixon, sent a mass pre-dawn text to parishioners saying: “Happy Easter friends and family. Celebrate a living Saviour. Christ is risen indeed.”

Several dozen people attended the service, in a car park between the church and the River Lagan.

There was humour at the end of the service when one parishioner turned up late, and Rev Nixon said he would give him an alarm clock for next year.

“It was the traffic,” said the man, prompting laughter among the congregation.

In Rome, in a late night service to precede Easter Sunday celebrations, Pope Francis presided over the solemn Easter Vigil service.

Francis walked in the dark down an utterly silent St Peter’s Basilica at the start of the vigil Mass.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has hailed the church as a “living active force doing great works” for the poor and homeless in an Easter message which urged Britain to “feel proud to say this is a Christian country”.

As the pace of election campaigning slowed to mark the occasion, the prime minister also joined condemnation of the persecution of Christians across the globe as three days of official mourning began in Kenya for 148 victims of an Islamic extremist attack on a university.

Church of England bishops were criticised by a number of Conservatives for a pre-election letter calling for a “fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be” - seen by some as a thinly-veiled attack on welfare cuts.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, has previously condemned certain welfare reforms.

In his video message the Prime Minister, who has defended the right of the church to intervene in political debate, said Easter was “time to reflect on the part that Christianity plays in our national life.