Groups of pilgrims led cross-community trip to the Somme

Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin (left) and Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke will lead the pilgrimage to the Somme. Picture by Matt Bohill
John Monaghan

A CROSS-COMMUNITY pilgrimage to the Somme is to begin on Wednesday morning, led by the Archbishops of Armagh.

Starting at 11am at the Memorial Wall in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, the group will conclude their trip on Friday at the Peace Park in Messines, Belgium.

Around 30 young people will undertake the journey, accompanied by Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke and Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin.

After a guided tour of Glasnevin Cemetery and prayers and reflections at the new Memorial Wall, the group will then travel to France for a visit on Thursday to significant sites at the Battle of the Somme.

More than a million men were killed during the battle, including thousands from across the island of Ireland.

The pilgrims will visit graveyards and memorials linked to the 36th Ulster Division and 16th Irish Division, including Thiepval Wood and the Ulster Memorial Tower.

They will finish the day at a wreath laying ceremony at Ypres, where every night at 8pm a Last Post Ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate.

On Friday, the group will visit battlefields and cemeteries in Ypres, and pause for prayers and reflections at the Peace Park, a war memorial to the soldiers of the island of Ireland who died, were wounded or are missing from World War I.

Archbishop Clarke said: "Coming as we do from very different contexts and also carrying very different understandings of our history, we have much to share with one another and much to learn, as we travel and pray our way through places that carry such huge symbolic importance for us all."

Archbishop Eamon Martin said the trip would be a "pilgrimage of prayer and remembrance."

And he added: "The Battle of the Somme has left us with a haunting image we are all familiar with – the thousands of pale, white gravestones dotting the ground which symbolise the lives of the many who were lost.

"I hope that our shared pilgrimage will offer us time and space to reflect with our young people on the importance of peace in our country and in our world."

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