The Dedication of The Church (2004)

The official opening of he monastery and Solemn Consecration of the church took place on first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 18th of January, 2004.

Hear the entreaty of your people as they pray in this place … hear and forgive (I Kings 8:29-30)

The eve of the Solemn Dedication was marked by an Ecumenical Prayer Vigil. The Service opened with the icon of the Holy Cross being carried into the new church building by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dromore (Most Reverend John McAreavey) and the Church of Ireland Bishop of Down & Dromore (Right Reverend Harold Miller). This symbolic gesture spoke of their commitment to bear witness to Christ together and demonstrated their mutual appreciation of the role the monastery seeks to play as a house of prayer for all peoples. Lord Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of Canterbury, preached the first sermon in the monastery church in which he concentrated on the vital role this place and the community it houses would have to play in furthering understanding and encouraging encounter between Christians of different traditions. Rev. Canon Trevor Williams, former leader of the Corrymeela Community of Reconciliation, spoke movingly of his experience of the community of Holy Cross as a safe space where people from different backgrounds have already been led to come together and in their meeting share their stories with one another in an atmosphere of confidence and trust. This sharing has helped many not only to grow in mutual understanding and respect but also to experience healing of deep wounds from their troubled past. Testimonies to the power of forgiveness through the experience of the cross were given by Rev. Bert Armstrong, a Methodist, whose brother and sister-in-law were killed by the IRA in the Enniskillen bomb (1987) and Mr Michael McGoldrick, a Roman Catholic, whose only son was killed by the UVF as part of the Drumcree stand-off (1996). Many victims of over three decades of violence in Northern Ireland were present at this Prayer Vigil and found it to be a profoundly healing experience. An Act of Repentance and a Joint Commitment to Peace-Making was led by the Superior of the Monastery and the local Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Ministers.

My house shall be a house of prayer for all (Isaiah 56:7)

The Solemn Dedication, the following day, brought together many distinguished representatives of the Church in Ireland and the Church Universal of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. Representatives of the monastic communities of both the Benedictine and Cistercian Orders, together with representatives of other forms of Consecrated Life, including Sisters from the Protestant Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland, also came to express their solidarity with the nascent monastery. This Eucharistic celebration opened with the presentation of the original stone water font from Down Cathedral by the Dean of the Chapter, V. Rev. John Dinnen, as a sign of love and prayerful communion in one Lord, one faith, one baptism. The Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops united to sprinkle the people, walls and altar of the church with the blessed water. The ambo of the new church was consecrated by Archbishop George Carey, followed by the proclamation of the Scripture readings by ministers of the Presbyterian and Methodist traditions. In his homily Bishop John McAreavey expressed his hopes and expectations for the community in these terms: The Benedictines value in a special way stability, stability in the long tradition behind them and stability in the place where their monastery is situated. It seems to me that this stability gives them freedom to set out on journeys that involve risk and that break new ground. And so the wider Church looks to this community to become a community of reconciliation and, in a way, to blaze a trail that the rest of us might follow. We look to you to help us to journey from an attitude of separateness to one of partnership; we look to you to help us make the journey from detachment from the fate of other Christians to a sense of deep care about what is happening to them. There is a journey that we have to make from privacy to trust that allows us to share our own personal and Church concerns with our brothers and sisters in other Church communities. Above all, we have to journey from a tolerance of division to a deep sense of the scandal of Christian divisions. We look to you to make us uncomfortable in many of the attitudes we take and to show us the way to a better future.

After the anointing of the altar table, the consecration stones of the church were anointed by the local Bishop, the Apostolic Nuncio – Dr Guiseppe Lazzaroto, the Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland – Archbishop Sean Brady, Bishop Francis Gerard Brooks, the Olivetan Abbot General – Archabbot Michelangelo M. Tiribilli, OSB, and the monastery’s Founding Father, Dom Mark-Ephrem M. Nolan, OSB. It was Cardinal Cahal B. Daly who inaugurated the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, placing the Reserved Sacrament in the tabernacle at the end of this first Eucharist to be celebrated in the church.