By Sarah Mac Donald - 14 June, 2016
The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, has begun a 20km pilgrimage for peace and reconciliation in Rome.
Before departing on Monday, Archbishop Martin explained that the pilgrim walk was about thanking God “for the huge steps that have been taken in Ireland towards peace and reconciliation” one hundred years on from the Rising.
However, with “pervasive crime, gangland killings and the continued threat of paramilitary violence, with poverty and increased homelessness north and south, we recognise that much still needs to be done to create a culture of life and prosperity for all the people of Ireland,” he said.
Most of the forty pilgrims on the St Oliver Jubilee Year of Mercy Pilgrimage to Rome are from the Archdiocese of Armagh.
Some are from Meath, which was the diocese of St Oliver’s birth, and a number are from Lamspringe in Germany, location of the oldest shrine of St Oliver, where bone relics of the martyred Archbishop of Armagh have been venerated since 1684.
The pilgrimage continues until Thursday 17 June.
Today, Tuesday 14 June, the pilgrims will undertake the Pilgrim Walk of the Seven Churches in Rome, as referred to by St Oliver Plunkett in his letters.
Assembling for Morning Prayer in St Peter’s Square, pilgrims will proceed to walk the 20km route, visiting seven basilicas, and entering through the Holy Doors of Mercy at the four major basilicas of St Peter, St John Lateran, St Paul outside the Walls and St Mary Major.
The prayer intention for the pilgrim walk will be ‘Peace and Reconciliation through the intercession of St Oliver Plunkett’.
The pilgrims will invoke God’s loving mercy for Ireland, for the continent of Europe and for the world.
“At this time the world needs our prayers and we will be conscious on our pilgrim walk of how much the world needs to see the face of God’s mercy,” Archbishop Martin commented.
He added that the work of mercy is needed today more than ever, “especially in the face of mass hunger, injustice, wars, discrimination and violence in so many parts of the world”.
“Remembering my predecessor, St Oliver Plunkett, I will also be praying for Christians who are persecuted around the world today.”
Tommy Burns from Drogheda, who is organiser of the pilgrimage and author of a recent biography of St Oliver Plunkett said, “2016 marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme and we will also remember the horrific loss of life of the youth of Europe at that time.”
“While Europe may seem at peace today, Ukraine tells a different story. I sometimes think that the Continent suffers from a collective loss of memory, as many people seem to have forgotten the important treasures of its Christian heritage.”
“We are beset with shocking acts of terrorism, and Europe has difficulty in accepting its humanitarian responsibilities towards the many refugees on its borders. Why can we not welcome the many gifts which migrants can bring to our communities?” Mr Burns asked.
Separately, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) will present its report on ‘Europe’s vocation to promote peace in the world’ today.
Bishop Jean Kockerols, Vice-President of COMECE and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, will speak at the launch, as will Brigadier General Heinz Krieb, Director of Concepts & Capability Directorate of the European Union Military Staff (EUMS) of the European Union External Action Service (EEAS).