AT THIS time of year, Christians turn to the deep and profound message that Easter brings.

Although 2021's Easter has once again been affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions, Christian leaders were happy to reach out through The Impartial Reporter to their respective flocks, sharing their thoughts on the hope and renewal that Easter brings, even in these difficult days across Fermanagh, and the world.

The following Easter messages are from Bishop Larry Duffy, the Bishop of Clogher; and Archdeacon Brian Harper, the Archbishop’s Commissary for Clogher Diocese, and rector of Magheracross Parish, Ballinamallard, respectively.

EASTER is a time of new beginnings. Easter points us to not merely a time of hope, but to hope itself.

The hope of Easter is a hope immersed in God’s love for each and every one of us – a reality made visible in the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world.

This is our joy! This is our hope!

I don’t need to remind you of the challenges we have all faced for more than a year now.

Many families have had to endure the loss of loved ones, and not being able to grieve for them in the normal way.

Others have endured financial problems. Many have had to cope with emotional stresses of various kinds.

These have not been easy days. But there is hope!

As Christians, we offer to the world something greater – we offer the mystery of the Risen Lord Jesus; we offer the victory of life over sin and death, over sickness and ruin.

The Risen Christ shows us the path of hope – a pathway we can travel on together as Christians, and as people of goodwill.

The Resurrection impels us to journey towards a world that is more just; where God’s love will reign.

I pray that the message of life proclaimed by the angel near the stone rolled back from the tomb may overturn the hardness of our hearts.

May it lead to removing unjustified barriers, and promote a fruitful exchange between all people, regardless of background or culture.

This Easter, as we look forward in hope to a pathway out of the Covid-19 pandemic, may we remove any stones which block the love of God being visible in our own lives.

Let us renew our commitment to bring down barriers, to work together for a more peaceful and a more just society, and may we re-commit ourselves to care for the beauty of creation – our common home.

In the words of the ancient hymn, the Exsultet:

"Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,

"Ablaze with light from her eternal King,

"Let all corners of the earth be glad,

"Knowing an end to gloom and darkness."

As Bishop of Clogher, I wish each and every one of you God’s blessing for this Easter season, and always.

May the Risen Christ always protect and guide you.

Bishop Larry Duffy

STRANGE as it might seem, I am not a trustworthy person. I am not to be trusted with money, vouchers, keys, important documents.

I’m not careless with such things – if anything, I’ve over-careful. I put them in a safe place and then, of course, forget where that place of safety is!

It is a worrying time when I can’t find what I’m looking for.

And then, suddenly, I turn around and there it is, in plain sight all the time. It was never lost; I just couldn’t see it.

The same can be true with our faith. You may have packed it away safely years ago, and now you can’t quite remember where it is!

You may feel that you have lost your faith but, if you know it is 'somewhere', then you haven’t lost it yet.

I’m thinking this Easter about Mary at the tomb on Easter morning. Our Gospel picture (John 20) finds Mary Magdalene at the tomb.

She had arrived before dawn and found the stone rolled away. She ran and told Peter and John that the body had been stolen.

The three returned to the tomb; Peter and John looked inside, and confirmed that the body was lost or stolen.

The men went home, but Mary remained, weeping. She looked in the tomb and saw two men in white, to whom she explained she was crying because the body had been stolen and lost.

Then she turned and saw the gardener and told him the same – "the body is gone".

She couldn’t see that which she thought was lost. And the Risen Lord spoke her name – Mary.

At that moment, she knew. She knew; she recognised her Lord, her teacher.

It was personal. It was inspirational. The Lord spoke her name. He was never lost – he just wasn’t where she expected him to be: alive, and outside the tomb.

Those moments are precious. The moments of joy and relief when something turns out to be the opposite of what you feared.

Mary believed her Lord had died, and his body had been stolen.

This can happen to your faith and mine. You may feel that the celebration of Easter has disappeared. Perhaps, to you, Easter is nothing more than a bank holiday and a chocolate egg.

Like Mary, you have accepted that Jesus was only a good man who died.

However, be prepared to be surprised – in the midst of doubt, in the depths of despair, you may hear that voice calling you by name, as Mary did, and all that you thought you had lost is found.

It could be at the most unexpected time.

May the joy of Easter and the hope that follows the Resurrection be both yours and mine this Easter.

Archdeacon Brian Harper