Blessed are the peacemakers of the Good Friday Agreement

Blessed are the peacemakers of the Good Friday Agreement Peacemaker Fr Alec Reid, a Redemptorist who played an integral role in the peace process in the North.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers’. This Beatitude seemed to underpin the coverage of the Good Friday Agreement anniversary last week. It hasn’t been 25 years of perfect peace but it has been infinitely better than the Troubles that went before.

The event was marked in a prayerful way by the Service for the 25th Anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement (RTÉ One, Holy Thursday). It was an ecumenical service with a variety of contributors, from high profile political or religious figures like former president Mary McAleese and Rev. Harold Good, but also lesser-known survivors of the violence in Northern Ireland and relatives of victims.

The dominant message was, appropriately, one of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness. However, the sadness, the tragedies, the rough edges were not ignored. It was an effective mixture of prayer, anecdote, reflection and Scripture, with enough food for thought for Holy Week, Easter and well beyond.

The fine music was provided by Kiran Young Wimberly and the McGraths – excellent singing, with subtle guitar, piano, harp and violin accompaniment. Mostly they sang original and unfamiliar arrangements of the Psalms, but I particularly liked the ‘Servant Song’, while the final ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’ was the perfect closure.

Still on the peace process in the North, The Secret Peacemaker (RTÉ One, Easter Sunday and BBC One, Monday), told the story of Redemptorist priest Fr Alec Reid, whose efforts were instrumental in bringing about the peace. It was a timely and hard-hitting documentary that carried a huge emotional impact.

Fr Reid died in 2013 and it was great to see extracts from a comprehensive interview he gave in 2010. It was partly his own story but also a history of the Troubles. It was good to see the inclusion of other clergymen involved in the peace process – including fellow Redemptorist Fr Gerry Reynolds, Rev. Ken Newell of the Presbyterian community and Methodist Rev. Harold Good who had appeared in that service mentioned above.

The dramatic re-enactments were not necessary, though Marty Rea did a fine job as the younger Fr Reid and, if the story is ever made into a feature film, I hope he gets the role. However, the dramatisation had impact in the scenes that involved Fr Reid trying in vain the save the lives of, two British soldiers set upon by a mob during a Republican funeral in Belfast.

I remember it being shocking when it happened and it was most tense and disturbing watching the footage again. A recent survey showed poor knowledge of the Troubles among young people today – this programme should be seen widely, so that people can realise the horrors of all that violence and do everything possible to avoid drifting back into it.

The Leap of Faith (RTÉ Radio 1, Good Friday) returned for a special one-off show for Holy Week, when presenter SiobhánGarrigan explored two related issues – how the events of Holy Week and Easter could be better understood if the there was an awareness of the Jewish context (a no brainer I would have thought) and how the events of that time could be presented in a way that doesn’t lead to anti-Semitism.

I’ve always thought that for Christians to be anti-Semitic was rather stupid seeing as how Jesus, his followers and his mother Mary were all Jewish! The issues were pored over by several scripture scholar from Christian and Jewish perspectives, though I thought perhaps the discussion lacked a stronger Christian input of a more conservative or traditional position.

Also apt for Holy Week, yet another of BBC’s Pilgrimage series started last week (BBC Two, Good Friday), with yet another bunch of celebrities (does it always have to be celebs?), this time on a Catholic pilgrim route in Portugal, with Fatima as its destination. Of particular Irish interest was the inclusion of Shane Lynch – he was brought up Catholic, became the ‘bad boy’ of Boyzone and was now an enthusiastic follower of Pentecostalism.

Catholic interest was provided by Bobby Seagull, a maths genius and TV personality. He provided an outline of the Fatima story for the story of the others and narrator Lee Ingleby provided a more detailed account of that story. It was sometimes silly but often moving, though the format is getting a bit formulaic at this stage.

However, I enjoyed the show, not least because of the Portuguese scenery and the rituals and customs of the pilgrim path.

Pick of the Week
EWTN Sunday April 16, 5pm

In preparation to celebrate the Feast of the Divine Mercy, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception host this special preview show.

BBC Four Sunday April 16, 10pm and Sunday (night) 1.20am

Two of Mozart’s best-loved choral works: the 1791 Requiem and the Mass in C Minor, both of which were unfinished when he died.

BBC Two Tuesday (night) April 18, 3.05am

Alex and Amy have five children under five, including identical triplets. Can their Christian faith and community help them juggle a chaotic home-life now they’re both back at work?