The two Archbishops of Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke departed yesterday, Wednesday 30 May on a ‘pilgrimage of hope’ to the Somme in Messines, Belgium, to mark the upcoming centenary of the end of the First World War.
A cross-community delegation of young people from across Ireland will join the Archbishops in visiting a number of historic and poignant sites relating to the war, culminating in a reflective visit to the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines.
The delegation of 36 people includes a core group of 16 young people representing the Protestant and Catholic traditions who will have a chance to forge friendships and share their thoughts and hopes for the future while exploring their cultural identities.
Speaking ahead of the pilgrimage Archbishop Martin and Archbishop Clarke said, ‘We will have much to learn from this joint trip, and from each other in the group. It is our vision that the pilgrimage will 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.’
The sites on the pilgrimage will especially focus on the Battle of Messines and the arenas in which soldiers from the 16th (Irish), 10th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) Divisions fought and died in Belgium and France, visiting cemeteries and memorials including Thiepval Wood, Guillemont and the Ulster Tower; and will also include the laying of a peace wreath at the Menin Gate at Ypres on Thursday evening at 8.00pm.
On Friday 1 June, the final day of the pilgrimage, pilgrims will visit the Irish Peace Park in Messines, as well as the Memorial Museum in Passchendaele and the Tyne Cot Cemetery.
Pictures from the pilgrimage can be found here.