The National Day of Commemoration is the Sunday nearest to 11 July, which is the anniversary of the signing of the 1921 truce that ended the War of Independence. The annual event is the first official state ceremonial a Moderator would attend, but for Dr Bruce, it wasn’t the first time that he had participated in this national act of remembrance.
“As a 30-something minister of the Dublin congregations of Clontarf, Ormond Quay and Scots Presbyterian Churches, I took part in The National Day of Commemoration in 1990, reading the Lord’s Prayer in Irish. It seems like a long time ago, as the Taoiseach then was Charles Haughey and Patrick Hillery was President. While leaders have changed in those 30 years, and Ireland has also changed in many respects since then, the purpose of The National Day of Commemoration remains unchanged. It was a privilege to represent the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at this this significant act of remembrance once again,” Dr Bruce said.
Dr Bruce joined the new Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD and the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, who led a scaled back commemoration due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Following the laying of a wreath by Mr Higgins, which was broadcast live on RTÉ 1, a minute’s silence was observed.
During a Christian act of worship, Dr Bruce read from the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, “The second chapter, which I read from, speaks of reconciliation; reconciliation that comes in Christ. Paul speaks of how Jesus is our peace, the One who destroyed the barrier that divides us from God, creating in Him one new humanity, reconciling people ‘to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility’ (Eph 2:16.)”
Dr Bruce continued, “Paul goes on to say, ‘He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit’ (Eph 2:17-18). Jesus is the ultimate reconciler, the epitome of peace, which is outworked through us in very real and practical ways, as we are called to be peacemakers, a theme I am exploring in my online Sunday services. When our history is conflicted, as ours has been, how we feel and speak about the past can weave the very fabric of our future.”
Remembering Irishmen and Irishwomen who lost their lives in past wars, including both World Wars, and on service with the United Nations, Dr Bruce said that this year marks not only the 75th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War, but the 60th anniversary of the first peacekeeping mission in which an armed Irish contingent took part.
“Ireland has played a key peacekeeping role with the United Nations since 1958. The deployment of Irish Defence Forces personnel to the UN’s mission, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo two years later, was not without cost.
The Moderator continued, “As we remember lives lost in the service of peace, it is also important to note that for the fourth time Ireland has secured a non-permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council for the forthcoming year. This will enable Ireland to continue to play a key role, albeit a different role, in peacebuilding and peacekeeping.”
Photo: Broadcast live on RTÉ 1, Dr Bruce is seen reading from Ephesians 2:13-22.
The 2018 General Assembly clarified the denomination’s position with regards to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's participation in multi-faith civic events. You can read the position of the Church here.