The Primate of All-Ireland has urged Irish Catholics and Protestants to become peacemakers, while paying tribute to the Inishowen community who died in the First World War.
The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, said people should focus on reconciliation and their common suffering rather than previous conflicts.
“For decades the fact that Irish Catholics and Protestants fought and died, side by side, was somewhat neglected – perhaps conveniently – by all sides,” he told those gathered at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Muff, Co Donegal on Friday 22nd September.
“In recent years I have grown to respect and understand more fully that, while we may remember in different ways, what unites us is so much greater and stronger than anything that is talked up to divide us,” the archbishop said at the remembrance Mass for his grand uncle, Edward Doherty, as well as all those from Inishowen who were killed or injured in the Great War.
Archbishop Martin recalled visiting the grave of his “Uncle Eddie” last year, while on a visit to the battlefields of World War One with Archbishop Richard Clarke and a group of young Catholics and Protestants from north and south.
He noted that his grand uncle was killed while fighting on the Western front but thankfully Edward’s brother, Patrick, who had also joined up, returned home from war to his family and “went on to live a long life working on the trams in Glasgow”.
“I tell their stories tonight conscious that many of you have similar stories handed down in your own families of men from all over Inishowen who died or were injured in the so-called ‘Great War’,” he said.
“When I visited Flanders I promised that I would come here to Inishowen and offer Mass for their souls.
“Sadly, because of the cruel and crazy tensions of our own history of conflict, the many thousands of Irish Catholics who died in the First World War have perhaps not been adequately remembered,” the archbishop explained.
Following the Mass, a plaque was unveiled at St Patrick’s Church, Iskaheen, in honour of the Inishowen people who died in World War I.
Archbishop Martin concluded his homily by saying that he hoped the Mass and the unveiling of the plaque would mark “a small step in building greater understanding and reconciliation, whilst acknowledging the sacrifice and bravery of our ancestors who so selflessly gave up their lives.”
Picture: (from clockwise), Archbishop Richard Clarke, Rev Bill Mullally, Rev Frank Sellar and Archbishop Eamon Martin lay a wreath on the centenary of the Battle of Messines.
Archbishop Martin kneeling in prayer at the white headstone of Edward Doherty, which reads: ‘Gunner E Doherty, Royal Garrison Artillery, 19th September 1917, aged 33.’ He is buried in Canada Farm Cemetery about five miles outside Ypres, Belgium.
Inset: Gunner Edward Doherty.