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.

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.

 

A cross-community delegation of young people from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds are accompanying the two Archbishops of Armagh on a ‘pilgrimage of hope’ to the Somme in Belgium.

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.

Soldiers

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.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council provided financial support to enable 16 young people from across the community to travel.