The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, and the Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, visited the Scottish island of Iona on Wednesday as part of this year’s series of joint pilgrimages highlighting their shared Christian witness and celebrating their common Columban heritage.
The bishops led a nine-strong group who travelled by aircraft, car and ferry to the island where Derry-Londonderry’s patron, Saint Columba, died in 597. The pilgrims took part in joint worship on the island and visited Iona Abbey – on the site of the monastery founded by St Columba after he left Ireland in the mid-sixth century. Members of the group also visited Iona’s Scottish Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches.
Saint Columba’s last recorded words – spoken to members of his community on Iona – were “Preserve with each other sincere charity and peace”. The phrase ‘charity and peace’ has been chosen by the two bishops as the theme of their joint pilgrimages during 2017 and were emblazoned on tee-shirts they wore during their trip to Iona.
The two church leaders say they are eager to heighten the profile of faith traditions in their dioceses and hope their shared witness to the Gospel will encourage reconciliation in their community. “We want to raise awareness of the long ecclesiastical history of our community,” they said, “its shared Columban narrative and rich Columban heritage.”
In a joint statement, Bishop Good and Bishop McKeown said that in undertaking this initiative and these pilgrimages, they were inspired by the example of their predecessors and building on their shared Christian identity. “Saint Columba is one of the great figures in Christian history and someone of whom Christians in the North West can be proud,” they said.
In April the bishops completed a three-day walk from St Columba’s birthplace in Gartan, in Donegal, to St Augustine’s Church in Derry-Londonderry (a distance of 34 miles) and, in September, they will undertake joint walks from Claudy to Strabane (on Thursday 14th) and Limavady to Garvagh (on Saturday 16th).
The bishops were accompanied on their trip to Iona by the Diocesan President of Mothers' Union, Mrs Mary Good; St Canice's Church of Ireland parishioner Michele Sheridan and her husband Peter; Templemore Parish Deacon, Rev Malachy Gallagher; Long Tower parishioners Ivor and Kathleen Doherty; and Derry and Raphoe DCO Paul McFadden.