On Monday, 10 April, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Northern Ireland, published a statement thanking Pope Francis for including “a prayer for lasting peace and harmony in Ireland” on the 25th anniversary of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. “The Holy Father has shown great interest in our peace process”, the Archbishop said, referring to the Pope’s words during the Regina Caeli in Saint Peter’s Square on Easter Monday, “and is always anxious to be kept up-to-date with developments here”. The Archbishop expressed his confidence that the Holy Father’s “prayerful thoughts today will be welcomed by all people of goodwill”.
He also recalled Pope Francis’ visit to Dublin in 2018, during which the Holy Father encouraged the people of Ireland “to persevere in the work of peace and reconciliation”, also acknowledging “the huge efforts that had been made to reach the Agreement and to find a peaceful settlement to end the conflict”.
The goal of the Good Friday Agreement, signed on 10 April 1998, was to end 30 years of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland and terrorist attacks on mainland Britain. After more than eight centuries of British rule, Ireland gained independence in 1922. Northern Ireland, however, remained part of the United Kingdom. Tensions between Republican nationalists who wanted to join Ireland and unionists who wanted to remain in Britain led to bloodshed from the 1960s to the 1990s, killing more than 3,500 people. Eventually, the Good Friday Agreement brokered by Washington was ratified by governments in London and Dublin. The accord contains the “principle of consent”, which states that Northern Ireland could join Ireland at any time, if most people on both sides were to vote in favour.
In his statement, Archbishop Martin encouraged the Irish people “to redouble [their] efforts at finding solutions to [their] ongoing problems and to work earnestly at restoring relationships” so as to “bring deeper healing and reconciliation on this island, and between these islands”. He concluded by praying for Pope Francis’ “health and strength to continue his mission of peace in the world”.