Most Reverend John H. Ricard, S.S.J.
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
August 3, 2005
Over the years, our Conference has stood in solidarity with those on both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland who have again and again called for peace and justice and condemned the indiscriminate killings of Irish Christians. In this spirit, our Conference welcomes the July 28 announcement of a renunciation of violence by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the Catholic and Protestant leaders of Northern Ireland formally made a necessary commitment to peace and justice. As part of a democratic, peaceful solution to the violence of the past, both Great Britain and Ireland called for total disarmament of paramilitary organizations and full cooperation between political parties, without the threat or use of force.
The renunciation of violence by the IRA calls for an immediate halt to their "armed campaign." This long-awaited and necessary commitment inspires a new hope that the residents of Northern Ireland will finally be able to live in peace and justice. We pray that the process of full disarmament will progress quickly and that this step in the peaceful resolution of conflict in Northern Ireland will lead to a renewed dedication to the building of a just and peaceful society.
Now is not a time for complacency, however. Promises must be kept. Concrete actions must follow words. Much still needs to be done to build a Northern Ireland in which all people feel at home and respected in their traditions and legitimate aspirations. We must strongly support the taking of new risks and steps toward greater justice. Both communities still mourn the losses of family members and neighbors in this decades-long conflict, a sorrow we share. The goals of reconciliation and justice will not come easily or quickly, but they must be pursued persistently.
We urge all the leaders of Northern Ireland to promote the development of an inclusive and peaceful state in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement. We pray that with God's help, all the people of Northern Ireland will succeed in building a future of justice and peace for themselves and for their children.