4 Corners kicks off its 10th annual festival with Pope Francis biographer Dr Austen Ivereigh
by Kellie BANCALARI
30 January 2022
The 4 Corners Festival began last night at Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, with its first event, “Let Us Dream”. The night featured Dr Austen Ivereigh, a journalist and a biographer of Pope Francis. The festival’s title is a nod to Ivereigh’s book in collaboration with the Pope, Let us Dream: The Path to a Better Future.
Pope Francis contributed to the festival by recording a short message for participants. He remarked on the festival’s significance of bringing people together from all corners of Belfast. He specifically thanked Reverend Steve Stockman and Father Martin Magill for bringing their respective religious communities together.
Dr Ivereigh then closed out the night by explaining the lessons from Pope Francis that are outlined in the book. The point of Let Us Dream, he explained, was to understand “how we can come out of this crisis, this pandemic, better”. He went on to say the Pope believes that from a state of crisis you can only come out better or worse; there is no going back to the status quo. Instead, he believes, “Crisis allows us to reevaluate.”
And out of crisis, ordinary people become agents of change. Although Ivereigh began by discussing the COVID-19 crisis, he made reference to Northern Ireland’s conflict. Iveriegh pointed out that through the Pope’s teachings, “It’s not our differences and our disagreements that lead to division. Our differences should be celebrated. Our disagreements should be fruitful. Diversity is divine. What’s diabolic is when that diversity is turned into division.”
He went on to explain, “In any conflict, says Francis, we have two big temptations. On the one hand, to wrap ourselves in the banner of one side or the other…but there is another temptation as well, which is to pretend that there is no conflict… The task of the reconciler is to endure the conflict.”
Ivereigh hailed the 4 Corners Festival as such a reconciler that opens “those involved to a new synthesis, one that does not destroy the identity of either, but preserves what is good and valid in both, but in a new perspective, a bigger perspective… that is the great gift of the 4 Corners Festival.”
This night also marked both the festival’s 10th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. The programme started with reflections on reconciliation and prayers by members of the 4 Corners planning committee, including Fr Magill and Rev. Stockman. Rev. Stockman led participants in prayer for those lost on Bloody Sunday. He also asked the audience to “pray for all who were lost, for all who have grieved, and for all who continue to grieve” as a result of all acts of violence committed during the Troubles.
A video recording of the event is available online. The 4 Corners Festival continues to hold events for the remainder of the week until Sunday, 6 February 2022. Events are being held both in person and online.