On Thursday 23 June, the Archbishops of Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop Richard Clarke, continued their special centenary pilgrimage with young people to significant sites at the Battle of the Somme.
The itinerary on Thursday included a visit to the Ulster Tower in Thiepval, France; graveyards and memorials linked to the 36th Ulster Division and 16th Irish Division including Thiepval Wood and Guillemont, as well as Newfoundland Park and the Lochnagar crater.
A short service of prayer and reflection was held at the Ulster Tower at Thiepval. Prayers were led by young people from across the island of Ireland, including pilgrims from the Archdiocese and Diocese of Armagh; pilgrims from the Church of Ireland dioceses of Clogher, and Cork; and pilgrims from the Catholic diocese of Kildare & Leighlin.
The group also took time to search for the grave of Father Donal O’Sullivan, an Irish priest who died within the first week of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. He was wounded on day one and when he died, his belongings were sent home to Kerry. These included a chalice that he had used to celebrate Mass with at the Somme. The chalice was recently passed on to Father Ruairi O’Domhnall, a priest of the diocese of Kildare and Leighton. Father O’Domhnall brought the chalice back to the Somme and 100 years later, was able to take it to the grave of Father O’Sullivan where a short prayer was offered.
On Thursday evening the group took part in the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. Archbishop Eamon and Archbishop Clarke took part in a formal wreath laying with two of the young pilgrims, Chris and Nicola, who laid a white wreath of peace at the Menin Gate.
Bishop Denis Nulty, Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin; Bishop John McDowell,Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher; Canon Shane Forster, Archbishop Clarke’s ExecutiveChaplain; and Mgr Gearoid Dullea, Executive Secretary of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference are also participating in the pilgrimage.
Click here for some of the images from day two of the pilgrimage.
Today, Friday 24 June, pilgrims will visit the site of the Christmas Truce, Tyne Cot Cemetery and Essex Farm and will conclude their special Somme pilgrimage with a visit to the Irish Peace Tower, Messines, Belgium.
The Battle of the Somme also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British and French empires against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. It was the largest battle of World War I on the Western Front; more than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.