THE re-opening of St Peter’s Church has been described as “an occasion of great joy, hope and celebration”.
Hundreds of parishioners, as well as representatives from several Protestant Churches, attended a rededication mass at the chapel on Sunday afternoon (November 6).
Guests included the Church of Ireland’s Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller, descendants of Charles Brownlow and members of the PSNI.
Reverend Geoff Wilson of Shankill Parish Church and Captain Graham Wood of the Salvation Army also attended.
The mass, which was aired live on the internet, was followed by a reception at St Peter’s GAA club.
The church was closed for over two years while renovation work was carried out on the 178-year-old building.
The final cost of the refurbishment is believed to be somewhere in the region of £4 million.
It was also revealed that a number of forgotten treasures were found while the work was being carried out.
A mosaic dating back to the 1920s was found underneath the altar and has been restored and relaid.
A rose window, believed to date back to the original opening of the church, is also visible from inside the building after the pipe organ was removed.
Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey, who led the re-opening mass, described Bishop Miller’s presence as “hugely significant”.
“The reopening of our church is an occasion of great joy, hope and celebration for us,” Bishop McAreavey said.
“Bishop Miller’s presence demonstrates his interest in what is happening in our church, particularly in the area of renewal of faith, and we try to support each other as much as possible in our roles as Christian leaders.
“We are trying to ensure that traditional walls between our communities see each other as partners in faith, rather than as rivals.”
Monsignor Hamill said it was a “massive day for the community and the parish”.
“The cross-community dimension of the day was particularly significant,” he said.
“It was a very pleasant day for all.
“We have other big challenges ahead of us in terms of making ourselves meaningful and relevant.
“In that, we believe we have the power of God with us.”
He continued: “People have been coming and going constantly just to see the church.
“It looks wonderful and it’s a very proud occasion for us.
“This is a very important place for the community. For most people in the area, the church means something. It’s much more than just a building.”
He added: “It was quite emotional for many people. You could feel that on Sunday.
“It’s great to get back home again.”