Following recent violence in the North, Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, spoke with Vatican Radio on the role of the spiritual leaders in times of violence, Bishop McKeown said, ‘We try to speak the message of the Good Shepherd, and we also try to offer leadership and support to those who are working for peace.’
The interview with Vatican Radio follows recent violence in Derry which Bishop McKeown and Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry, Bishop Ken Good, condemned in a joint statement saying, ‘There is no justification for the stone-throwing and petrol bombing which has terrorised people living in the Fountain, terrified residents of Alexander House, and appalled the vast, vast majority of their fellow citizens. We are thankful that no one has been seriously injured or worse as a result of the recent attacks but recognise that we may not be so fortunate in future.’
‘We offer our full support to the PSNI and commend the many local community workers who work tirelessly to prevent interface violence and improve community relations. We applaud, too, the courage of our fellow citizens who have condemned the recent violence publicly and expressed solidarity with their neighbours in the Fountain. We encourage political representatives to do their utmost to end the stalemate which has paralysed politics in Northern Ireland.’
Speaking later at the Unity of Purpose Public Rally in Derry, Bishop McKeown said, ‘violence and destruction do not help anyone. They do not advance any cause. We have discovered that talking is the only way that builds people up. Destruction and aggression end up damaging the very communities that some people claim to be defending. You cannot claim to love your country – and, at the same time, cause pain and destruction to the people who live there. All who live here are part of this country. All deserve to be cherished equally.
‘Tonight we have gathered, not to condemn anyone, but to build bridges. We want a city where everyone feels they have a future. We have lost too many people because they had lost hope in the future. We believe that we have the human resources to create a community where all our fellow citizens feel included. We believe that everyone here has something unique and valuable to contribute to a better future.’
In his interview, Bishop McKeown told Vatican Radio the two bishops of Derry emphasised ‘the importance of a pastoral outreach to all those who felt very uneasy and unhappy and worried because of the violence that exploded in our midst.’
He added, ‘It is important that the Churches have their own pastoral role but it is also important that we act as part of the civil life of our city and it is wonderful that we are welcomed among all the different parties of the city because it is recognised we have a particular contribution to make.’
‘We try to speak the message of the Good Shepherd’, Bishop McKeown concluded, ‘and we also try to offer leadership and support to those who are working for peace.’