Pope Francis’ Message for Belfast: “We have to pull down walls and build bridges.” 

A personal message from Pope Francis for the people of Belfast was broadcast last night at the opening event of the 4 Corners Festival, an inter-church festival that seeks to bring together people from all parts of Belfast.

The message was played in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral ahead of a talk and Q&A with Austen Ivereigh, who collaborated with Pope Francis on his recent book, Let us Dream (BBC Report here).

(Disclaimer: I am on the organising committee of the 4 Corners Festival and hosted the Q&A with Ivereigh).

YouTube video

Pope Francis commended the Festival, saying:

I wish you the best in this festival. But I especially want to thank you for the good your example does me.

It does me good because I see we have to pull down walls and build bridges.

The Festival closes on Sunday 6 February, when Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will speak in St Peter’s Catholic Cathedral.

All events in the Festival are free and you can attend in-person or online (register here).

Slugger readers may be especially interested in Tuesday evening’s event, ‘On Shifting Ground – In Conversation with Susan McKay’, which also includes contributions from novelist Jan Carson, writer and church youth worker Anton Thompson McCormick, poet Scott McKendry, and Rev Dr Heather Morris, General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland.

Full Text of the Pope’s Message (translated)

I was delighted to learn of this festival in Belfast, the Four Corners.

I thank Reverend Steve Stockman and Father Martin McGill for this gesture, a gesture of walking together, a gesture of opening horizons.

This is a Christian reality.  To the extent that we open more horizons, the more the grace of God enters us, the more the Lord is revealed to us.

The danger is when we close ourselves off, each one of us, at a personal level, when we close in our own story. We don’t grow. It’s a sad story.

Or when, as a society, we enclose ourselves in our religion, in our ideas, and live closed-up, each one in our corner.

But in this festival, the four ‘corners’ are mixed, everything is together. People mix in the best sense: they talk to one other, they express themselves, listen to each other, walk together.

I’m happy about this. I’m happy that my brother, Justin Welby, is celebrating there; I am happy that the Catholic archbishop is celebrating there.

We’re brothers, and if we have walked together for centuries why stop and mutually excommunicate each other?

Because what we do when we separate ourselves from each other, is excommunicate each other.  That is to say: you’re not from my family, you’re not from my communion, you’re not this, not that…

Instead, the Four Corners unites and puts on a Festival.  Why a Festival?  Why is it called a Festival?  Because it’s fiesta! What the Lord Jesus taught us is that in a fiesta the greatness of His heart shows forth.

Let’s remember that parable when the guests didn’t want to come.

Go to the crossroads and bring everybody, the rich, the poor, the lame, the blind and the deaf, everybody, healthy and sick.

Because in the fiesta of the Lord all come together as brothers and sisters.

I wish you the best in this festival. But I especially want to thank you for the good your example does me.

It does me good because I see we have to pull down walls and build bridges.

May God bless you.  Pray for me, please, and I will pray for you.  Thank you very much.”

 

Watch: Let us Dream with Austen Ivereigh 

YouTube video

 

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