FOR the first time in centuries the two archbishops of Dublin led a procession of the faithful through the streets of the capital last night as part of an historic ecumenical walk to celebrate Good Friday.
Up to 500 worshippers -- including both Catholics and Protestants -- followed behind Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson as both of them carried a wooden Taize cross at the front of the procession.
Faithful of all nationalities and ages -- from teenagers to octogenarians -- took part in the walk.
They first gathered at Christ Church Cathedral where prayers were said at the Church of Ireland landmark before they began the 2km trek down Dame Street and across O'Connell bridge.
The procession then continued along O'Connell street to St Mary's Pro Cathedral.
There, worshippers from a number of different nationalities -- including Germans, Czechs, Poles, Chinese as well as Irish -- repetitively sang short hymns interspersed with periods of silence in the tradition of the Taize service which originated in a French monastery in the village of Taize, France.
The silent inter-faith procession was devised by both Archbishops in order to encourage greater unity between faiths.
"They hope that people of both traditions will come together to pray and produce a visible sign of the churches' work together in the wider community," said a spokesman for the Catholic Church.
"The Good Friday Procession between Christ Church Cathedral and St Mary's Pro Cathedral holds together a common Christian witness to the love of God in the depth of suffering and loss," Archbishop Jackson said.
"It shares with the citizens of Dublin the conviction which both Archbishop Martin and I hold, that what unites us in Christ is more significant and transformative than whatever divides us."
Church of Ireland organiser Greg Fromholz said he was delighted with the turnout.
"We expected about 40 people and we have closer to 400," he told the Irish Independent.
"It's really exciting that people are still interested in celebrating Easter," he said.
But even more significant was the fact that worshippers from both the Catholic and Protestant faiths took part in the event together, he said.
"The word ecumenical actually means household," he said.
"But the dysfunctional household in Ireland tonight has found common ground and it shows a lot of hope," he said.
"This certainly is historical and symbolic."
Fr Kevin Doran (59), a priest at the St Vincent de Paul church in Marino, north Dublin, said he was also encouraged by the numbers.
"One of the things that is exciting for me is increasingly the Catholic Church and Church of Ireland are working together to bear witness to Jesus Christ,"he said.
"People overseas are surprised at this, given our history, that Catholics and Protestants would be praying together," he said.
But Eleana Knock, a student from Germany attending Dublin City University, said such joint religious celebrations between faiths are common in her homeland.
"It's really great," she said.
"In Germany it's a big thing that Catholics and Protestants do things together."
Secondary student Eoin Gregg (15), from Clondalkin, said he was also happy to take part with other members of the Clondalkin Youth Service group from his local Catholic church.