The IXE meeting in Northern Ireland

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JESC is a member of the “Initiative of Christians for Europe” (IXE). IXE brings together over ten networks of national Catholic organisations, including in the UK. Twice a year, IXE representatives meet, sometimes online, to address a common theme of European relevance and draft a shared document for dissemination which is addressed in particular to the political institutions of our continent. In this way, IXE aims to promote the Christian values and solidarity in Europe and in the European Union.

The last meeting took place in Newry, Northern Ireland, on the border with the Irish Republic, from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 September 2022, at the Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre. Luciano Larivera, JESC’s Secretary for European Affairs, attended as a representative for the Jesuit European Social Center.

On Saturday morning, the group had the opportunity to dialogue with Fr Roman Fihas, Professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University, to discuss the war in Ukraine. In a later session, Dermot McCarthy, a former Irish civil servant and now a deacon of the Archdiocese of Dublin as well as member of the Steering Committee in Ireland for the Synodal Process, animated a discussion on the political situation in Ireland in both territories. He also presented the synodal process of the Catholic Church in Ireland, whose bishops’ conference is unique (like the rugby team).

On Saturday afternoon there was a bus tour of several significant places in Belfast owing to the conflict between Protestants and Catholics which lasted from the late 1960s to 1998. Accompanying the group with their explanations and testimonies were Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, which includes Belfast, and Monica McWillimas, who played one of the most pivotal roles in the Northern Ireland peace process. Some photos are attached.

On Saturday afternoon, IXE devoted part of its final meeting to discussing the draft already prepared for a statement addressed to the London Government and the European Commission to find a practical solution that would safeguard Northern Ireland’s stay in the EU internal market without customs controls along the border with the Republic of Ireland. In the absence of a solution there are fears of a resumption of inter-ethnic armed conflicts. We attach the statement.

IXE Statement Securing peace