Catholic and Church of Ireland primates lead pilgrimage to Somme
Cross-community delegation marking upcoming centenary of end of first World War
A cross at Wytschaete military cemetery which remembers the Irish who died in the liberation of the village during the Battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917. Photograph: Ronan McGreevy.
The trip marks the upcoming centenary of the end of the first World War. The delegation of 36 includes 16 young people.
Led by the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke, they visited cemeteries and memorials linked to the 36th Ulster Division and 16th Irish Division on Thursday.
Included were Thiepval Wood, Guillemont, and the Ulster Tower which commemorates the heavy losses suffered by the 36th Division on July 1st 1916, first day of the Battle of the Somme.
They also attended the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony in Tyres which included a wreath-laying ceremony.
On Friday they are visiting the Irish Peace Park at Messines, a memorial to the large number of soldiers from the island Ireland who died, were wounded or are missing from the first World War. They will also visit the Memorial Museum at Passchendaele, and Tyne Cot cemetery before flying back to Dublin.
On Wednesday the group visited Kortrijk in Belgium which was heavily bombed in 1917.
In a joint statement on the visit, the archbishops said the pilgrimage would be “a witness to hope and that the visits to these important and symbolic sites in the centenary year of the end of the first World War will enable us to forge even greater friendships and work yet harder for peace together in the future.”
In 2016, both archbishops also led a cross-community delegation of young people from Ireland on a similar pilgrimage.