Rev.Ian Paisley's life-changing letter


(taken from The Catholic Standard, August, 1982)

By Father Bernard Rogers

Dear Dr. Paisley,

This letter comes to you from the other end of the world, with all the goodwill in the world.  I write to you because I personally believe that you hold a key to the solution of Northern Ireland‘s problems.

Map of Northern Ireland

I say this in all sincerity because:

  1. you love Northern Ireland
  2. you love your people,
  3. you are a very influential figure, and
  4. you are a Minister of Religion.

Why should I care about Northern Ireland?

I care because:

  1. I love Northern Ireland – I was born there and spent the first twenty-five  years of my life there
  2. I love the people of Northern Ireland, because they are my people, too, and
  3. I, too, am a Minister of Religion -ordained Dublin, 1946.

Solutions for Northern Ireland’s problems have been sought after and much talked about.  Politicians of every persuasion have had a go.  Westminster has tried and certainly not yet succeeded: violent men have tried to impose their solution on the people; women of peace and people of prayer would have had more success had they more support and universal leadership.

So it is true to say that the results of all the efforts so far have been sad indeed.  And yet we must continue to hope.

Where do we place the hope?   – in politicians?  – in violence?  – in imposition of a non-universally acceptable form of government?  No.

Our hope must be in Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

But who will lead all the people to him, and how?

St Francis of Assisi prayed:

Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me bring your love;

Where there is injury,  your pardon, Lord;

And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

St Francis of Assisi

 Make me a channel of your peace.  

Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope;  

Where there is darkness, only light;  

And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

If only all the people in Northern Ireland would make that prayer their own! Personally, I feel that most of them could, and would, say it; but they need to be led into saying it together.  They need to be shown by clear, Christ-like leadership that the way ahead leads to peace.

And that’s why I said earlier that I think you hold a key: you can open up a door; you can be a bridge-builder between the two communities.  I am quite convinced  that there are Catholic clergy in Northern Ireland who would be only too willing to stand, side by side, with  you at any venue that you cared to nominate, and that together you could draw hundreds of thousands of people  into an atmosphere of goodwill.

Christ preaches total forgiveness in his Sermon on the Mount (Bloch)


We have to accept that God loves everyone and He wants us to love one another – and  show it.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus rejected an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and told us that we were to love even our enemies  (Matt. 5).

Isaiah had already said in prophecy:

“Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.  
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each taking his own way,
And Yahweh burdened him with the sins of all of us.”

And, again, in St Paul, we read the words:

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.  And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad: for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the day will come when God will set you free.
Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger.  No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort.  Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:29-32)

Surely we can accept all this and remain true to our respective traditions.  It has been well and truly proven that there is no happiness or peace to be found in toe-to-toe mud-slinging about the atrocities of the past.  Every effort must be made to leave the past where it belongs and not blame the present generation for what happened then.

The present generation of violent men will ridicule what I suggest should be done, but, if we are truly Christian, i.e. followers of Christ, we should be able to withstand a bit of ridicule, when we think of Calvary.

And so, while you love your people, and I love mine, let’s accept our Lord’s way and say, we love our people.  I firmly believe this can be done.

I firmly believe that both communities could be brought together in such a way that Catholics could joyfully join in celebrating the traditional 12th of July.  And this would not be without precedent because not everyone in Northern Ireland is aware of the fact that King William’s victory at the Boyne was celebrated in the Vatican!

And I cannot foresee that both communities would have any difficulty in celebrating March, St Patrick’s Day.

Coat of Arms of a united Northern Ireland

What a happy place Northern Ireland would then become!  Instead of indulging in slogans that incite the people to anger and revenge, they could march together under the banner of the Lord – which would carry the message of peace and love to all.

Very Rev. Mons. B. C. Rogers, M.B.E.

Vicar-General,  Archdiocese of Hobart,

Lindisfarne, Tasmania

*          *          *          *          *          *           *          *          *          *          *         *          *          *

If you have read this Open Letter, and missed  Miracle of the Violinist, I suggest you DO read it.  You will learn how VERY SIGNIFICANT this Letter has been in the recent  history of  Northern Ireland.


4 Responses to Rev.Ian Paisley's life-changing letter

  1. Anne Grant says:

    oh the ironies that come out of Tasmania.
    Robert Cosgrove, son of the persecutor of your Great grandfather, himself married the grand daughter of a convict.
    She was one of my mother’s many cousins


    Dear Anne, I have sent you an e-mail to ask you a few questions about yourself. It was great to have a comment from a lady – my first! I’ll google Sir Robert – one of our best-loved Premiers. I hope you noticed that I was reluctant to talk about Sir Robert ‘s father – but his son assured me there was no problem at all. It made a good story, I thought. My Dad was so VERY proud of his constant contact with our Premier – little realising what his father had done to his beloved wife’s grandfather! Thanks for your comment – I appreciate it very much. Mary.

  3. srmarynoonan says:

    Dear Anne, Some mistake that I don’t understand named the above letter as being from Thomas J. McEnaney JR, but it was FROM ME to YOU! Sister Mary.

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