The leaders of Ireland’s main churches have called for politicians engaged in a new round of talks to seize the opportunity before them.
The leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches were speaking at Stormont House in Belfast, as they met to encourage those taking part in the inter-party talks.
The British and Irish governments have established new process of talks with all main political parties which got underway at the start of the month.
Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said they would review progress at the end of May.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the church leaders said the talks were “a fresh window of opportunity, born of tragedy, but nestling in hope for the future that now requires courageous and compassionate leadership”.
They added: “As leaders of Ireland’s main churches, we want to add our collective voice to support and encourage everyone taking part in this new round of political talks to seize the opportunity for a new beginning that lies before them.
“In welcoming this fresh initiative, together, we hope and pray that there will be substantive progress over the next number of weeks that builds relationships, bridges the gaps that remain and leads to the establishment of a sustainable power-sharing executive - one that is built on accommodation and trust, has reconciliation at its heart and is focused on the common good and welfare of all."
The church leaders further said that they had been “impressed by the genuine willingness of those involved to engage".
But they added: "At the same time, we all need to be realistic about the significant challenges that lie ahead in finding the necessary agreement."