Protestant leader Paisley finally meets Irish Catholic Archbishop

Firebrand Irish Protestant leader, Dr Ian Paisley, who famously interrupted a speech by Pope John Paul II to denounce him as the Antichrist, has reversed a lifetime of anti-Catholic polemics for a historic first meeting with Northern Ireland Catholic Archbishop Sean Brady.

The Irish Nenagh Guardian says that winds of change are blowing in Ireland following the historic meeting between Archbishop Brady and Dr Paisley who is described as the "most powerful politician in Northern Ireland".

"For many years he mixed politics and religion, adding the founding and leadership of the Democratic Unionist Party to his Free Presbyterian Church establishment," the Guardian says.

But his party's eclipse of the Ulster Unionist Party in the North's most recent election has given him and his party "the opportunity to play a hugely significant role in the building up of a new, peaceful Northern Ireland, one free from the chains of bitterness and hate", the paper says.

Dr Paisley's meeting with Archbishop Brady contrasts with archival images transmitted on Irish television this week of a bemused John Paul II looking on as Dr Paisley, then a member of the European Parliament was being forcibly removed from the chamber, protesting against the Pope's presence there.

Dr Paisley was "a man who has made a long career of belittlement of the Catholic Church and outrageous declarations of heinous name-calling of the Church's leaders, in Rome and elsewhere", the paper says.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Archbishop Brady described the event as "a very helpful and constructive meeting".

The talks "confirmed to me that all of us have a part to play in creating a more stable and prosperous future for Northern Ireland." He called on all sides to "find the courage to take account of the needs of the other and not just those of our own community."

Dr Paisley was also positive saying that "we had a very good and useful exchange of views." The subjects he and members of his party discussed with the archbishop and a delegation from the Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs, Paisley said, included poverty, the economy, and the benefits of stable self-government in the province.

However, the International Herald Tribune says that a spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party stressed in an interview that the meeting Monday was political, not religious.

Asked whether Paisley still believed that the Pope was the Antichrist, the spokesman, Simon Hamilton, said: "I'm not going to get into theological questions."

Signs of optimism in Northern Ireland talks (International Herald Tribune, 12/10/06)
Winds of Change (Nenagh Guardian, 14/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Ian Paisley (Wikipedia)
Ian Paisley
Archbishop Sean Brady (Catholic-Hierarchy
Archdiocese of Armagh

Ian Paisley compared to St Patrick (CathNews, 7/2/06)
Bush offers St Patrick's Day welcome to Ian Paisley (CathNews, 16/3/01)

13 Oct 2006