On Wednesday 21 November 2018, representatives from the Christian Churches across the Island of Ireland met to discuss how they will respond to the challenges posed by Brexit. The meeting took place in the Presbyterian Assembly Buildings, Belfast, and was attended by representatives from the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and Church of Ireland.
Following the meeting, a joint statement was released by the leaders of the four main Churches: Archbishop Eamon Martin, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Rev William Davison, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Right Rev Dr Charles McMullen, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev Brian Anderson, President of the Irish Council of Churches.
They stated: “As the final stages of the initial part of the negotiations for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union draw to a close, we as Church Leaders here on the island of Ireland are inspired by the challenge of Jesus to love our neighbour.”
They emphasised the immeasurable improvement over the last 30 years in relationships across the Island, and stated that: “It is important that we acknowledge the legitimate aspirations of those who voted to leave the European Union and those who voted to remain.
“In this context, we particularly want to encourage public representatives, and all others who give leadership in our society, to weigh their words carefully, to respect the integrity of those who conscientiously differ from them and to speak with grace.”
Speaking at the meeting in Belfast, Bishop Noel Treanor stressed the irreplaceable contribution of Christianity and of political leaders rooted in Christian thinking to the making of post-war Europe. In his address he outlined societal phenomena which have given rise to disillusionment with institutions including political institutions, euro-scepticism, fears and uncertainty about the future, and that Brexit may be considered a surface manifestation of these phenomena.
Bishop Treanor stated that: “Churches share a responsibility with society to recognise and to promote an appreciation of the public good that is the European project.
“They can help build a grass-roots understanding and appreciation of its historic and new quality as a communitarian method of politics which aims to promote the common good, is inspired by a value system and which in its primary law provides and recognises the right of Churches and faith communities to contribute to the elaboration of its policy-making.”