Church leaders in Rome to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement

Catholic and Protestant church leaders from Ireland have travelled to Rome to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

They took part in an ecumenical prayer service and a seminar, to reflect on events since the peace deal was signed in Belfast in 1998.

In a joint statement, the Irish church leaders said the agreement had saved “countless” lives in the past 25 years.

Among those involved are the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Archbishop Eamon Martin will be joined by the Reverend Dr Sam Mawhinney, head of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The seminar in Rome has been organised by the British and Irish ambassadors to the Holy See, the UK and Ireland’s official representatives to the Vatican City State.

The statement from the church leaders added: “We must remember that the signing of the Agreement was not the end of the journey to peace in Northern Ireland.

“It simply marked the first faltering steps down a very long road to a new, brighter, and shared future…shaped by tolerance and respect for our differences, and a recognition of the need for greater understanding and reconciliation.”

The agreement was signed in April 1998 and brought to an end 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland, which became known as the troubles.

Most of the events marking the 25th anniversary took place earlier this year, and included a visit to Belfast by US President Joe Biden.

The other clergy attending events in Rome include Church of Ireland Archbishop John McDowell, the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland Rev David Turtle and Bishop Andrew Forster, president of the Irish Council of Churches.

The British and Irish ambassadors to the Holy See, Chris Trott and Frances Collins, issued a joint statement about the anniversary of the agreement.

They said: “Unfortunately, as we know only too well, there is no blueprint for the achievement of peace.

“But by sharing experiences, we hope that the visit of the group of church leaders will serve to inspire other church and faith-based leaders as they work to support peace and reconciliation around the world.”