Northern Ireland news

'An honour to call Pope Francis a friend and brother' Archbishop of Canterbury tells Belfast audience

Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Tom Haire, Fr Martin Magill and Archbishop Justin Welby, on the Wonderful Wander, organised as part of the Four Corners Festival. Pictures by Mal McCann.

THE leader of the Anglican Church has described Pope Francis as “a friend and brother” in an address delivered at St Peter’s Catholic Cathedral in west Belfast on Sunday.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was tasked with closing the 10th annual Four Corners Festival.

The cross-community faith-based event was officially opened a week ago with a video message from the Pope, which was played at St Anne’s Cathedral on January 30.

Speaking last night, Dr Welby, who spent the weekend in Belfast, said: “Nobody told me when I agreed to do this that I’d be following the Pope.

“His Holiness a is a tough act to follow, to put it mildly,” he said. “It is an honour to call him a friend and brother.”

The head of the Church of England and the spiritual leader of 85 million Anglicans worldwide, spoke of the passion for reconciliation that he shares with the Pope.

Recalling a retreat hosted by The Vatican for the leaders of war torn South Sudan, Dr Welby described as “miraculous” and “astonishing”, the sight of Pope Francis dropping to his knees to beg the leaders to make peace.

The speech came 24 hours after the senior cleric took part in a cross community walk from Glencairn in north Belfast to the Springfield Dam in the west of the city.

The walk, led by festival organisers Rev David Campton and Jim Deeds, is part pilgrimage, part community outreach.

Belfast author Jim Deeds said: “The Wonderful Wander really is the Four Corners Festival in one event. It’s where people literally get to meet each other from different parts of the city and beyond.

“It’s a nice mix of seeing the city from a different angle. There’s always that element of crossing from one corner of the city to another.”

Reflecting on the success of this year’s festival, he said: “We used to joke about having the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

A decade on, he said the organisers had been uplifted by the involvement of both international faith leaders.

“Four Corners seeks to move people out of their own wee corner of their city and move around and discover their city,” he said.

“The goal is to transform the city and really build upon the peace we have.”

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