Four main Church leaders and President Higgins to attend Somme ceremonies

‘For many families, like my own, the events of 1916 are still personal’ – Moderator

Ireland’s Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr Frank Sellar.

Ireland’s Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr Frank Sellar.

 

Ireland’s four main Church leaders and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will join President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince William, and prime minister David Cameron, French prime minister Manuel Valls and Germany’s former president Horst Köhler at Somme commemorations in France on Friday afternoon.

Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys will represent the Irish Government.

Catholic primate of Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin, Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke, Ireland’s Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr Frank Sellar and Ireland’s Methodist President Rev Bill Mullally will lead prayers at the Ulster Memorial Tower at Thiepval there this afternoon. Archbishop Clarke will deliver an address.

Built between 1928 and 1932 the Tower honours 72,195 soldiers whose bodies were never recovered following the Battle of the Somme which began 100 years ago tomorrow on July 1st 1916.

The Thiepval monument was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who also designed the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge in Dublin.

Up to 3,000 people are expected to take part in today’s commemoration ceremony

Speaking in advance of the commemoration the Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr Sellar said that “for us today, 100 years on, it is difficult to imagine, or even contemplate, the shear scale of the loss of life and the impact that it had then. My grandfather lost two of his brothers on the battlefield, while a third, who survived, received the Military Medal for his bravery.”

For many families “like my own, the events of 1916 are still personal. It is however an enormous privilege and honour to represent the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at such an historic occasion, as we pause and remember those who died and reflect on their loss.”

He was “reminded of our own fractured society and troubled world we live in and the vital importance of critical reflection and inclusive remembering. I am also very conscious of the necessity to always search for true reconciliation and for the creative reimagining of a civil society humbly modelled on Christ Jesus for the common good,” he said.