On 1 January, World Day of Peace, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down & Connor issued his New Year’s 2021 message.

The Bishop of Down & Connor said, “The experience of the past year has made it clear, sometimes painfully, that the decisions and actions of individuals affect the lives of everyone. It is not possible to fully anticipate the legacy of this global pandemic upon society at large and upon families and individuals, businesses and charitable agencies closer to home.

“On behalf of the local Church, I pay tribute to all the medical personnel, doctors and nurses, pharmacists, chaplains and all frontline workers who have sacrificed much to alleviate suffering and to save lives. While we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and need to remain ever vigilant to the contagious threat of the virus, the seedlings of hope are emerging with the roll out of vaccination programmes.”

Drawing attention to the challenges and opportunities that 2021 will bring, Bishop Treanor said, “The year ahead 2021 in Northern Ireland will also be marked by tremendous uncertainty as we withdraw from the European Union and as we reflect upon the Centenary foundations of the Partition of Ireland. This context generates discussion and reflection on identity and identities, on cultural heritage and on the foundations and societal structures of Northern Ireland. We are all aware that the combination of such circumstances creates uncertainty. Fuelled by fear, this uncertainty can also amplify fault lines and create tension across communities.”

In conclusion, Bishop Treanor said, “For these reasons, more than ever, a culture of care as a pathway to peace is necessary. All of us, political leaders, educators, citizens and faith leaders should make a concerted effort to build upon the legacy of peace, achieved through sacrifice and constructive dialogue. The path of peace and reconciliation will require new acts of courage and prophetic witness to help us navigate the residual undercurrent of fear that continues to influence our society.

“I extend my heartfelt blessing to all across the Diocese of Down and Connor and beyond and I pray that the coming year may build upon and nurture the foundations of peace and reconciliation.”

Ends