WASHINGTON (November 11, 1997) -- From October 29-31, Most Reverend Raymond Boland, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, led a USCC delegation to Northern Ireland to attend the eighth annual meeting of the Inter-Church Committee on Northern Ireland.
The delegation also met with a number of religious and political leaders, government officials, and human rights groups, including Archbishop Sean Brady, president of the Irish Episcopal Conference; Cardinal Cahal Daly, recently-retired archbishop of Armagh; the Right Reverend Dr. Samuel Hutchinson, moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Ireland; N.I. Secretary of State Dr. Mo Mowlem, MP; honorary secretary of the Ulster Unionist Party; Tom Hartley of Sinn Fein; and Peter Robinson, MP, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.
Commenting on the visit, Bishop Boland said, "The new cease-fire and the new political talks, which include Sinn Fein for the first time, offer reason for cautious optimism. Nevertheless, the obstacles to a lasting political settlement remain daunting."
The Inter-Church Committee was addressed by Archbishop Sean Brady on prospects for peace in Northern Ireland. In addition to reviewing the programs undertaken under the auspices of the Committee, the group discussed the current political situation, the role of forgiveness in bringing about peace and reconciliation, and the recently-released report on fair employment issued by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights.
Members of the Committee also attended a graduation ceremony, presided over by Tony Worthington, M.P., N.I.'s minister for education, for 150 students who just completed one year of business studies a 90 Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist and Episcopal colleges in the United States. The Inter-Church Committee played a key role in starting this program, called the Business Education Initiative, which is run by the Northern Ireland Training and Employment Agency with the cooperation of the associations of Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist and Episcopal colleges and universities. The program is funded by the Training and Employment Agency, the International Fund for Ireland and the Peace and Reconciliation Fund. In 1997-98, 166 students will attend 94 U.S. colleges.
The Inter-Church Committee, consisting of representatives of the Catholic Bishops and Presbyterian Church in the United States and Ireland, was formed in 1990 to improve understanding among the churches and to promote ecumenical collaboration on behalf of peace, justice and reconciliation on Northern Ireland.
In addition to its annual meetings and the Business Education Initiative, the Committee's ecumenical initiatives include regular ecumenical speaking tours; an annual Summer Institute on Northern Ireland; ecumenical parish twinning programs; and support for fair employment and investment in Northern Ireland.