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Kids from both sides of border taken on pilgrimage to the Somme

By Alf McCreary

Published 24/06/2016

Young people taking part in the Somme centenary pilgrimage
Young people taking part in the Somme centenary pilgrimage

Leaders of two of Ireland's main churches have led a group of young Protestants and Catholics from both sides of the border to the Somme.

The Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop Dr Richard Clarke, and his Catholic counterpart, Archbishop Eamon Martin, headed a pilgrimage of young people from Armagh, Clogher, Cork, Kildare and Leighlin.

They visited the Ulster Tower at Thiepval, and graveyards and other war memorials linked to the 36 (Ulster) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division, whose young men fought side by side in fierce battles on the Western Front during World War One.

The youths, bishops and senior church officials also visited Newfoundland Park and the massive Lochnagar Crater, scene of one of the biggest munitions explosions of the Great War.

Yesterday, the group travelled to Ypres and witnessed the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, where they also laid a wreath.

At the start of their three-day pilgrimage on Wednesday, they visited the Memorial Wall at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Prior to departing for France the Anglican Primate Dr Clarke said: "Coming from very different contexts, both spiritually and geographically, and also carrying very different understandings of our history, we have much to share with one another and much to learn."

Archbishop Martin said: "The Battle of the Somme has left us with a haunting image we are all familiar with, including the thousands of gravestones dotting the ground which symbolises 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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