Pilgrimage to include a visit to the Island of Ireland Peace Park, Messines, and a wreath-laying ceremony
at the Menin Gate, Ypres.
In 2016, the two Archbishops of Armagh, Archbishop Richard Clarke (Church of Ireland) and Archbishop Eamon Martin (Catholic Church), led a cross-community delegation of young people from across the island of Ireland on a pilgrimage to the battle sites of the Somme. Two years on, building on the previous pilgrimage and now marking the upcoming centenary of the end of the First World War, the Archbishops will once again lead a number of people of varying ages and backgrounds and representing the Protestant and Catholic traditions to historic and poignant sites relating to the First World War, culminating in a reflective visit to the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines.
The delegation of 36 people will include a core group of 16 young adults who in visiting the War sites and memorials will be able to forge friendships and share their thoughts and hopes for the future while exploring their cultural identities. 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 and will also include the laying of a peace wreath at the Menin Gate at Ypres.
The group will also visit: the city of Kortrijk; cemeteries and memorials including Thiepval Wood, Guillemont and the Ulster Tower; the Memorial Museum, Passchendaele, and Tyne Cot Cemetery.
In advance of the pilgrimage, Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Eamon Martin 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 following is an outline itinerary for the centenary pilgrimage:
Wednesday 30th May
• Depart from Dublin for Brussels, travel to Kortrijk, Belgium – explore Kortrijk which was heavily bombed in 1917.
Thursday 31st May
• Visit cemeteries and memorials linked to the 36th Ulster Division and 16th Irish Division, including Thiepval Wood, Guillemont and the Ulster Tower.
• Travel to Ypres for the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony including a wreath-laying ceremony at 8.00pm.
Friday 1st June
• Prayers and time for reflection at the Irish Peace Park, Messines.
• Visit to the Memorial Museum, Passchendaele, and Tyne Cot Cemetery
• Depart Brussels for return flight to Dublin
• The Island of Ireland Peace Park and its surrounding park (Irish: Páirc Síochána d'Oileán na h'Éireann), also called the Irish Peace Park or Irish Peace Tower in Messines, near Ypres in Flanders, Belgium, is a war memorial to the huge number of soldiers of the island of Ireland who died, were wounded or are missing from World War I, during Ireland's involvement in the conflict. The tower memorial is close to the site of the June 1917 battle for the Messines Ridge.
• The Ulster Memorial Tower is a Somme battlefield memorial to the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division. It commemorates the very heavy losses suffered by the 36th Division on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
• Every night at 8.00pm a moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate in Ypres. The Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ypres as a simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of their town.
• Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has provided generous financial support to enable 16 young people from across the community to journey with the Archbishops on this Pilgrimage of Hope.