Queen visits Roman Catholic church during Enniskillen visit


Protestant and Catholics from a Northern Ireland town devastated by an IRA bombing showed their unity today by joining forces to host a Diamond Jubilee visit by the Queen.

Clergy from both communities marked the Queen's 60-year reign by staging events in Enniskillen - where an explosion in 1987 killed 11 people on Remembrance Day.

In an Anglican Cathedral a service of thanksgiving for the Diamond Jubilee was staged while a few metres across the street the Queen made history by visiting a Roman Catholic church for the first time in either Northern Ireland or the Republic.

The move was an advancement in Anglo-Irish relations which will take a huge step forward when the Queen shakes hands with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in Belfast tomorrow.

Speaking about the planned meeting with the Queen, Mr McGuinness, Stormont's deputy first minister, has said: "This is about stretching-out the hand of peace and reconciliation to Queen Elizabeth who represents hundreds of thousands of unionists in the north."

Canon Peter O'Reilly, from St Michael's Roman Catholic Church, and the Very Rev Kenny Hall, Dean of St Macartin's Cathedral, co-operated to deliver the historic cross-community event at their neighbouring churches.

Canon O'Reilly said: "My reading of the significance of today is that it is an expression of the unity that there is in this place - a Fermanagh welcome, a gracious Queen, a lovely lady."

The Rt Rev Hall said: "We have worked together to make this a success. And what we are really sending out is a message that we really are one community."

In his thanksgiving service sermon the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Alan Harper, praised the Queen's groundbreaking visit to the Republic of Ireland last year, which has done much to build bridges on both sides of the Irish border.

Her conciliatory words and gestures had allowed many to throw off the "shackles" that had been loosening since 1998's Good Friday Agreement, and to "positively" be themselves, he said.

The Archbishop, head of the Church of Ireland, drew parallels between the Queen and her ancestor, Elizabeth I, who addressed Parliament in 1601.

He described how Elizabeth I said in her 17th century speech: "'And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had, nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving'.

"In that, the first Queen Elizabeth was mistaken. She did not anticipate the reign of her Elizabethan successor for whose 60 years of duty, devotion and service we say 'Thanks be to God'."


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