Each 17 March, The Rt Revd Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore, invites pilgrims to join him for the Annual St Patrick’s Day Festival Service, followed by lunch in the grounds of Down Cathedral. The event is a joyful, cross–community occasion which attracts hundreds of visitors from Ireland and abroad.
The Dean of Down is thrilled to announce that in 2015 the Archbishop of Canterbury is coming to Downpatrick for St Patrick’s Day.
The celebrations centre around two historic sites – the cathedral and Saul Church, on the site of St Patrick’s first church. The day begins with an early service of Holy Communion at Saul after which a group of pilgrims of all ages and nationalities makes a 45 minute prayer pilgrimage to Down Cathedral. The Festival Service is a lively event including traditional music and a guest speaker who addresses the congregation on the chosen theme.
At 1.00 pm special guests and local clergy take part in a wreath laying ceremony at St Patrick’s grave before sharing an Irish stew lunch.
The pilgrimage dates back to the 1950s and Bishop FJ Mitchell. With the arrival of the troubles and more local celebrations, the pilgrimages stopped for a time, although Bishop Gordon McMullan revived a large inter–denominational service in Down Cathedral.