The two Archbishops of Armagh, Archbishop Richard Clarke (Church of Ireland) and Archbishop Eamon Martin (Roman Catholic Church), are leading a three-day, cross-community 'Pilgrimage of Hope' to Messines, to visit “historic and poignant sites relating to the First World War”.
The trip – which builds on their 2016 joint pilgrimage to the battle sites of the Somme – coincides with the upcoming centenary of the end of the First World War and will culminate in a reflective visit to the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines.
The delegation comprises 36 people from across the island – representing the Protestant and Catholic traditions – and includes a core group of 16 young adults. In visiting the war sites and memorials, the young people 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 focus particularly 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 itinerary will also include the laying of a peace wreath at the Menin Gate at Ypres.
In addition, the group will visit the city of Kortrijk (which was heavily bombed in 1917); cemeteries and memorials including Thiepval Wood, Guillemont and the Ulster Tower; the Memorial Museum at Passchendaele; and Tyne Cot Cemetery.
Before leaving for Belgium, Archbishop Clarke and Archbishop 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."