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Irish Archbishops visit Battle of Somme site ahead of centenary

by Hannah Tooley

Next Friday marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle, which was one of the bloodiest days in World War One.

Armagh's Roman Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke are leading a group of young people on a pilgrimage to graveyards and memorials, before visiting the battlefields of Ypres on Friday.

Bishop John McDowell of Clogher told Premier's News Hour why the trip is important.

He said: "We wanted to bring some young people from, as it were, both traditions in Ireland to come to see the sights for themselves, to hear about what happened in the Battle of the Somme and to reflect a bit about the complexities of that time."

Religious leaders and young people prayed at the Memorial Wall at Glasnevin Cemetery and will attend wreath laying ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres in Belgium.

Bishop John McDowell said the trip is about reflection.

"It's an experience of enormous difficultly, usually of very, very young men, to reflect on what it was they did, maybe why they did it and perhaps more importantly what we want to make of it," he said.
Speaking ahead of the centenary pilgrimage, Archbishop Eamon Martin said: "I am looking forward to being part of this special pilgrimage with Archbishop Clarke and with young people from across the country.

"The Battle of the Somme has left us with a haunting image we are all familiar with - the thousands of pale, white gravestones dotting the ground which symbolise the lives of the many who were lost.

"We go there, one hundred years after one of the bloodiest battles in human history, on a pilgrimage of prayer and remembrance.

"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."

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak to Bishop John McDowell here:

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