Two bishops from the North West – one Roman Catholic and the other Church of Ireland – are to take part in a number of events this year, including a 30-mile joint-walk, to promote reconciliation in the community and highlight their shared Christian witness and heritage.
The Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, and the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, say their initiative will begin with a three-day walk in April from St Columba’s birthplace at Gartan, in Donegal, to St Augustine’s Church in Derry-Londonderry (which is believed to be the site of a sixth century monastery founded by Saint Columba). The pilgrimage will take place in three stages between 27th and 29th of April. As they walk, the bishops will meet people and visit places along the route, and pray with parishioners in local churches.
The walk will be followed in early June by a visit to Iona, where St Columba settled, founded another monastery and eventually died. And in September, the church leaders will undertake joint walks from Claudy to Strabane (on Thursday14th) and Limavady to Garvagh (on Saturday 16th).
In a joint statement, Bishop Good and Bishop McKeown said: “In undertaking this initiative and these pilgrimages, we are inspired by the example of our predecessors and building on our 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.”
The saint’s last recorded words to his community on Iona – ‘Preserve with each other sincere charity and peace’ – are inscribed on the large cross marking his birthplace in Gartan, and have been chosen by the bishops as a guiding theme for their pilgrimages.
“We are eager to heighten the profile of faith traditions in our dioceses and hope our shared witness to the Gospel will encourage reconciliation in our community," the bishops said. "We want to raise awareness of the long ecclesiastical history of our community, its shared Columban narrative and rich Columban heritage.”