The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, has marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's reforming theses by calling for unity among Irish Christians from the pulpit of one of Ireland's principal Protestant cathedrals.
The Derryman made the call during a service in St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh, marking the quincentenary of the commencement of the Lutheran reformation.
Archbishop Martin said he believed the schism between Catholicism and Protestantism can be bridged given Christians' shared values.
“I want to emphasise the importance of personal friendship and trust in helping to bridge and reconcile the reformation," he said.
"This trust is founded on the reality that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.
"We share the conviction that 'God loved us first', with His free gift of grace and merciful love, and before any human response that we might have given.
"Sometimes we underplay the extent of agreement that exists across our traditions on key doctrinal issues, including the core issue of justification which triggered so much of the polemic and mutual condemnations of the Reformation period.
"That is, of course, not to deny that there remain important differences between us - for example over issues like Church, Eucharist, ministry and the papacy.
"However, changing the paradigm from disagreement and difference to one of friendship and trust, frees up our theologians to debate and clarify the areas of difference that merit deeper understanding and dialogue."
Archbishop Martin suggested Ireland's growing secularisation was making the common ground between the country's Christian churches more pronounced.
"I am convinced that in the midst of an increasingly secular world, we in the various Christian traditions are called to combine our efforts out of our 'certain hope' for the world.
"We therefore present to public discourse our consistent Christian conviction about the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of the person, about the centrality of the family, about solidarity and the need for a fair distribution of goods in the world, about a society that is marked by peace, justice and care for all, especially the most vulnerable.
"Of course we must find new ways of presenting our sincerely held perspectives alongside those of other faiths and none in conversations about significant issues and values.
"Such engagement by people of faith is made all the stronger if we do it together and, where possible, when we have a unified voice on the key ethical issues of our time."