Church leaders condemn murders

Tuesday March 10th 2009

The shooting dead of a police officer in County Armagh just 48 hours after two soldiers were murdered in Antrim has prompted another wave of condemnation from Church leaders.

The victim of the latest incident, which happened at Lismore Manor, Craigavon, was Constable Stephen Paul Carroll, a 48-year-old father from the Banbridge area. The Press Association has reported that the Continuity IRA, one of a number of dissident republican paramilitary groups, was behind the attack.

Constable Carroll was shot at 9.45pm on Monday March 9 as he got out of a police car. Officers were responding to a call for help from a distressed woman whose home was being attacked. He died later from his injuries.

The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, who on Monday afternoon visited and prayed with the two civilians injured in the Antrim shooting, has condemned the latest murder.

“Following my visit to Antrim Area Hospital where I listened to the people and staff in the hospital, there is an overwhelming voice in this community saying we must not go back to violence, and Monday night’s shooting must be condemned,” Bishop Abernethy said.

“This is not the way this community must go and I would urge anyone who has any information to go to the police.” Bishop Abernethy was accompanied at the hospital by the Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor the Most Rev Noel Treanor.

Following the murder of Constable Carroll, the Most Rev Alan Harper, OBE, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland said: “For a second time within a space of 48 hours death has been brought to our streets, grief visited upon families and colleagues, and injury done both to individual persons and to all the people of Ireland, north and south.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the police officer who was plucked from our midst as he and his colleagues went about their legitimate duty serving and protecting the people of Craigavon. I ask that throughout the Church of Ireland next Sunday we remember those who have died and pray for the bereaved and injured.”

The Archbishop went on:  “I ask two further things of the wider community. First, that any who may have information that might lead to the apprehension of the evil people who have perpetrated these perverted acts should make that information available to the PSNI or An Garda Siochana.

“Second, that there should be absolutely no thought of retaliatory action by loyalists or others, such action would only play directly into the hands of the people responsible for what has happened. Violent acts do not serve the legitimate political aspirations of anyone on this island.

“I encourage all to support the legitimate forces of law and order and demonstrate that as a community we have now moved beyond the barren responses of a blighted past. May the Holy Spirit of God give us the vision and the strength to serve His purposes alone.

In a joint statement, the Right Rev Harold Miller, Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore, and the Most Rev John McAreavey, Roman Catholic Bishop of Dromore, described the ‘cold-blooded murder’ of a policeman who had served the community for 20 years as a ‘morally bankrupt act.’

Adding that their thoughts and prayers were with his family at this cruel time, the Bishops stated: “Those who perpetrated this murder and other recent atrocities have nothing to offer the future of our society. Their ‘god’ is destruction. They are seeking to destroy the peace we are building – the normalising of cross-community policing, the cross-party working of the Assembly, and the desire to draw a line under thirty years of troubles. In fact, they will destroy only their own souls.

“Our community will not allow them to succeed. By the grace of God, we will be rallied together in a new and deeper way. This is the time for every section of our community to make the message clear and unmistakable. We are not going back. Our future is going to be one of respect, trust and working together for the good of all.”

The people of Antrim are still coming to terms with the Saturday night murder of the two young soldiers at Massareene Barracks in the town.

They were shot dead and four others, including two pizza delivery men, were injured in the attack which took place as the soldiers took a delivery of pizzas just hours before they were due to leave Northern Ireland.

Antirm lies within Connor Diocese, and the Bishop of Connor described the killings by the so-called Real IRA as “an evil act that cannot be justified.”

The Bishop said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved, the injured and all who are devastated by this awful moment.

“This awful incident is a reminder to us of how much still has to be done by all of us in pursuing peace. We are still a very deeply divided society. Politicians, church people and communities have much to do not to be deflected by evil and to ensure our words and actions speak of peace.”

The Bishop  went on: “We must not let evil deflect us from building peace together.”

Archbishop Harper had condemned the murders of the soldiers in Antrim as ‘deeply distressing and deplorable.’

The victims were  Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham and Cengiz 'Patrick' Azimkar, 21, from Wood Green, London. They were due to fly to Afghanistan in the hours after the attack. The rest of 38 Engineer Regiment is understood to have now left the base for Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Massereene Barracks on Monday March 9 before travelling on to meet political leaders at Stormont.





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