Northern Ireland

Archbishop of Canterbury prays at peace wall during NI visit

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Media captionJustin Welby prayed at the peace wall in Cupar Way in west Belfast along with leaders of the Church of Ireland

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said "risk-taking politicians" are vital for peace and reconciliation, during a visit to Northern Ireland.

Justin Welby prayed at the peace wall in Cupar Way in west Belfast along with leaders of the Church of Ireland.

He is head of the Anglican Church, the biggest Protestant denomination, with around 85 million members.

Archbishop Welby is visiting every Anglican province in his first 18 months in office.

He has said reconciliation will be one of the priorities of his ministry.

Archbishop Welby has been involved in peace-making initiatives around the world, particularly the Middle East and Africa.

Speaking on the Shankill side of the wall, Archbishop Welby said he had not come to offer "cheap answers" to Northern Ireland's remaining problems, but had "a renewed sense of trying to support in any way".

Image caption Archbishop Welby said that all peace processes in the world required both politicians and the public to play positive roles

"It's hugely shocking to see the wall," he said.

"I've been here before, but every time you see it, it reminds you of the depth of change that is required."

He said that all peace processes in the world required both politicians and the public to play positive roles.

Archbishop Welby told the BBC: "Leadership is essential. We need risk-taking politicians, who take huge risks for peace - who lead in virtue, in love for each other, for neighbours, for enemies.

"At the same time, if it's not a grass-roots process, it'll never get any roots, any traction, any long life. It's not either/or, it's both/and."

'Change'

He added that people in other areas of conflict where he had visited had taken heart from what had happened in Northern Ireland.

"You can look at this and feel a sense of sadness and grief, but if you go to places like Burundi where they had a terrible civil war - they look at Northern Ireland and they say it is possible to change."

In a sign of how far Northern Ireland has changed, the peace wall is now something of a tourist attraction.

'Light of hope'

The Archbishop of Canterbury was happy for a group of visitors from Shanghai to take photographs with him.

The snap had a certain symbolism - foreign visitors and a global religious leader with a message of reconciliation, photographed at a place which saw so much violence in the past.

Archbishop Welby said: "This area has the potential to be a real light of hope around the world if it persists in the route it is taking."

During his visit he will preach at a service in Armagh Cathedral. Catholic Church leaders will attend.

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