The bishop of Down and Connor has urged politicians to be more careful about their language as Belfast has been engulfed in nightly violence for over a week.
Bishop Noel Treanor also appealed to young people “to stop engaging in disturbance and violent activity now” after 74 members of the police service were injured.
The city has witnessed some of the worst rioting in recent years and last night (April 8) the police used water cannon to disperse young Protestants angry at the decision for the first time in six years.
Petrol bombs, fireworks and stones were used to attack police.
A journalist was also attacked and a bus driver injured when his public bus was hijacked and set alight.
Bishop Treanor said that: “Sadly, over the past week, we have experienced a return to civic unrest and violence on our streets.
“These scenes are deeply concerning for all of us who believe in and have worked together for a shared, brighter future for our society,” he said in a statement April 9.
“I wish to express my particular concern and support for those police officers who have been injured in this violence and for their families. The police service deserves our support in its efforts to bring safety and order to our streets.
“I ask politicians to weigh carefully the impact of their words, to avoid the deeply damaging politicisation of civic policing and to use the available mechanisms of accountability and influence to deal with any concerns that may arise,” Bishop Treanor said.
Church leaders on both sides of the sectarian divide have been on the streets pleading for rioters to stop with some of those arrested for disorder as young as 13.
The police have said they are concerned that hard-line Protestant paramilitaries may be orchestrating the violence. There are now fears that disorder may spread to Catholic areas as much of the violence from Protestant youths has occurred near so-called ‘peace lines’ – walls erected to prevent clashes between the communities.
Addressing young people directly, Dr Treanor urged them “to stop engaging in disturbance and violent activity now.
“I know you don’t want to hurt anyone or kill anyone so don’t get caught up in this violence,” Bishop Treanor said.