A statement from the Most Rev John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, on the day that churches on the island of Ireland were permitted to reopen for public worship, June 29 – The Feast of St Peter, Apostle and Martyr:
Jesus said to them, ‘And who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God’ … and I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ Matthew 16
‘It could hardly be more fitting that it is St Peter’s Day on which we symbolically receive the keys of our churches to enter them again, over the days and weeks to come, as the people of God; to worship his holy Name and to gather together as the household of faith. For this we give thanks to God.
‘During the months of lockdown, some of you will have had hellish experiences as you have suffered the death of someone very close to you, or have endured the desolating tedium and stress of isolation. For these very reasons, you may welcome the freedom to worship but be worried or apprehensive about returning. When you are ready, the churches will be ready to welcome you also.
‘The head of the Church, Jesus Christ, has been true to his promises, and we must be true to him.
‘And being true to him means always thinking of others as we join together in corporate worship and in everyday life. To have made the necessary preparations to make church safe and to keep it safe. To take the necessary precautions as we begin to mix again in society, in shops, in restaurants and other public spaces. That is the impulse of the law of love and solidarity which is our vocation. We are responsible for each other.
‘Each of us will begin to emerge from lockdown changed in some ways. It is much too soon to say where that will leave us and lead us as a Church.
But whatever our experiences have been, I hope we can turn our faces in confidence and thankfulness towards God and then turn to face our parishes, our communities and our world in the unshaken promises of the Gospel against which nothing can prevail, and perhaps at sometime today join as parishes, as families or as individuals, in these well-known and memorable words:
‘Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to us, and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life: but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Spirit be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.’