The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Rev Ken Good, was one of three senior Protestant church leaders to meet with members of the families of victims of Bloody Sunday – a day after the publication of the Saville Report.
They described the Report as ‘a decisive turning point in reaching out to one another,’ and commended the families for their patience and dignity.
Bishop Good, the Rev Dr Norman Hamilton, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and Rev Paul Kingston, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, met the families at the Bloody Sunday Memorial in Londonderry’s Bogside.
In a statement issued following the meeting, the church leaders said: "A cloud that has been hanging over this city for almost four decades has begun to lift. The pain, tension and conflict that resulted from Bloody Sunday have not only blighted many lives, they have also seriously damaged healthy community relationships.
"Our hope is that the Saville Report will bring comfort and relief to the families who lost loved ones as a result of that fateful day. We believe that the Report presents a challenge and an opportunity for new and closer relationships within our wider community."
The clergy statement went on: "Recognising the goodwill and the significant efforts already made by many people from all sides, we dare to believe that this can be a decisive turning point in reaching out to one another. Our hope is always for more than mere co-existence. We wish to contribute to and to feel part of a self-confident, welcoming city that is at peace with itself.
"We commend the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday for their patience and dignity through very difficult and trying times. We sense something of their pain and our prayer is that they can now face the future with a renewed sense of hope."
The statement concluded: "Our purpose in meeting the families today is to hold out a hand of friendship. As Christian leaders, we believe that reconciliation is at the very heart of the Christian message. We therefore extend our hand of friendship and assure the families and all the victims of our Troubles of our prayers and support as we walk together on this new journey."
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland, who met in Dublin, welcomed and ‘wholeheartedly supported’ the initiative of the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and the Presbyterian and Methodist leaders in arranging to meet with relatives and survivors of Bloody Sunday.
“Our hope and prayer is that this meeting may not only bring some solace to the victims of Bloody Sunday, but will also contribute to reconciliation and peace building throughout Northern Ireland,” they said.