BY JOE JENKINS
THE PRESBYTERIAN eider who initiated a correspondence of reconciliation between Presbyterian and Catholic leaders in Ireland has told the Herald of his concern that he may have created divisions in the Protestant community after speaking out in the name of peace.
Last month, Dr Kelvin McCracken, a minister in Lisburn, near Belfast, repre
sented 25 Presbyterian ministers when he wrote a letter to The Irish News, in which he expressed a need for forgiveness from Catholics for the actions of the Protestant marchers at Drumcree. Thousands of Orangemen gathered at the Derry hotspot last month to march through the Catholic suburb after the RUC backed down over a ban of the rally. They incited an angry response from nation
alists. In the letter, Dr McCracken wrote: "We confess with deep anguish the sins of disobedience, rebellion, anger and sectarianism... perpetrated on the whole community in the supposed cause of civil and religious liberty. We ask the forgiveness of our Almighty and Holy God and of our Catholic neighbours, that members of our Church should have been directly involved and that all of us,
by association, have been tainted by this communal sin." But on Tuesday, Dr McCracken told the Herald: "My comments have caused a lot of hurt in my own community. I'm at pains not to exascerbate that."
The response from Irish Catholic clergy and laity, however, has been warm. A Catholic evangelical group described the olive branch offered by Dr McCracken as a "remarkable and exem plary initiative". They said: "We wish to extend unreservedly the forgiveness asked for by our Presbyterian brothers and sisters. "We, in our turn, publicly ask forgiveness from Almighty God and from our Protestant neighbours for our guilt by association in past wrongs inflicted on them as well as any personal guilt by action, omission or silence that has contributed to the hurts, sectarian
bitterness and divisions. We are in deep need of your forgiveness, even as we offer you ours. We do appreciate that the fruit of repentance needs to be lived out on a daily basis and we trust that new, warm friendships can emerge across the divide."
The statement called for a "Church-wide Day of Repentance", welcomed by Dr McCracken.
Paddy Monaghan of The Evangelical Catholic Initia tive, behind the Catholic response, said: "This is the first time that we've seen the Protestant community ask for this sort of forgiveness".
A spokesman for the Church in Ireland said: "One has to welcomesuch initiatives. Ireland is not an ecumenical desert. We have a long history of not only contact but co-operation. People arc capable of very spontaneous gestures of friendship and support."