Armagh archbishops joining forces for pilgrimage to battlefields
The two archbishops of Armagh are to lead a cross-community pilgrimage of hope to one of the First World War's bloodiest battlefields.
Archbishop Richard Clarke, of the Church of Ireland, and Archbishop Eamon Martin, of the Catholic Church, will lead a delegation to the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines, and will lay a peace wreath at the Menin Gate in Ypres.
In 2016, the two archbishops led young people from across the island of Ireland on a pilgrimage to the battle sites of the Somme.
From May 30 to June 1 this year, the two archbishops will again lead a diverse group of people of varying ages and backgrounds and representing the Protestant and Catholic traditions to historic sites relating to the First World War, culminating in a reflective visit to the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines.
Their poignant journey heralds the forthcoming centenary of the end of the First World War.
The delegation of 36 people will include a core group of 16 young adults who, in visiting the battlefields and memorials, hope to forge friendships and share their thoughts and hopes for the future while exploring their cultural identities.
The sites on the pilgrimage will centre 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 .
The group will also visit the city of Kortrijk (Courtrai); cemeteries and memorials including Thiepval Wood, Guillemont and the Ulster Tower; the Memorial Museum at Passchendaele; and Tyne Cot Cemetery.
Speaking in advance of their pilgrimage, the two archbishops said in a joint statement: "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."