What was it all for, Ian?

Oct 10th, 2006 | By | Category: Ireland

“So the slide is on. The downgrade is about. Well thank God my Saviour still reigns. It says He is consuming Antichrist. At this very moment what does He consume the Antichrist with? With the Words of His mouth, the Power of His Holy Word, for Rome cannot stand up to the Word of the Living God. That is the sword that penetrates even the entrails of the Pope and brings him down, the Word of the Living God.

He will destroy him, with the words of His mouth, He will consume him and He will destroy him with the brightness of His coming.

One day that old hoary Rome, hoary with sins and idolatries, will perish and a cry will resound in heaven “Babylon is fallen”. There will be a hallelujah as that great deceiver of the nations comes to the day of final and total judgment by the true Christ whom I love and serve”.

Anyone who lived in Northern Ireland between the 1960s and the present day would have no problem attributing those closing lines of a sermon, preached in October 2000, to a particular religious figure. His roaring voice would be familiar to millions around the world. “No Pope here” will echo around Irish history books for decades to come.

And what has it been all about? What were three decades of violence and bloodshed and slaughter and carnage all about? The great demagogue, the man who will have no truck with liberals, or ecumenists, or Romanists, sat down yesterday with the Archbishop. The man whose rhetoric shaped the bullets for others to fire, suddenly does what would have been the reasonable thing to do forty years ago.

The men and women of integrity in the North, those men who sought to build peace, those who tried to follow the path Jesus and of reconciliation, had to endure years of vilification and insults from the so called “big man”. Where I served as curate, the local follower of the champion of anti-Popery used to take out half page advertisements in the local newspaper denouncing the Church of Ireland as “apostate” and my Rector, a good and kindly man, as a “traitor.”

What was it all for? I read once that in the days before the violence broke out he had young Bernadette in his house; she sat with the tea in a china cup balanced on her knees. Would it have been too much then for the man to have had some humility and to accept that others also had their beliefs and convictions?

What was it all for? My mind wanders to David McKittrick’s huge book “Lost Lives”, an account of each and every person lost in the thirty odd years of violence. Lost for what? When yesterday’s television pictures showed the moment that was coming with or without him, those whose pain never goes away must have wondered at what they saw.

What was it all for, Ian?

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