Led by the Rt Rev Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia, the day of pilgrimage began with a colourful parading and reception of national flags and banners including from the Philippines, Vietnam, Benin, Lithuania, England, Ireland, China, Sri Lanka, India, Trinidad, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Uganda, Nigeria, France, Mauritania, Tanzania and Kenya. Many of the national groups said the Hail Mary in their own native languages.
In his welcome, Bishop Alan said: “It is a special joy to welcome people and priests from the many different ethnic communities from across the country represented here today.
“We are gathered from many nations as one people – the family of God – united in our Catholic faith and in our common purpose to make Jesus Christ and his blessed Mother known to all.
“We unite ourselves in prayer and solidarity with all of our Christian brothers and sisters across the world who are being systematically persecuted and martyred, especially in Iraq and Syria, in northern Nigeria, Pakistan and India and many other places.
“We also prayer for peace and reconciliation in those places where there is war, division or unrest. We pray especially for the people in Congo and in Zimbabwe.”
Bishop Paul McAleenan, auxiliary bishop from Westminster, gave the homily.
“We are always being asked by God to move forward,” he said. “You can live without many things but you can never lie well without hope.
“Today is a pilgrimage to honour Our Lady, to thank her for presence and thank her for her prayers. Coming here today is like coming home to our blessed Mother. Like all mothers she wants us to progress and to move forward. She wants us to empty ourselves of ourselves so that we can be like her – full of grace and full of God’s love.”
A solemn Mass of Our Lady was then celebrated by Bishop Alan in the open air Chapel of Reconciliation.
After picnic lunches, pilgrims processed, many singing and dancing, along the Holy Mile between the Catholic Shrine and Walsingham Abbey where the bishops conducted a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and said prayers at the original shrine site in the Abbey grounds.
The pilgrimage is named after the 14th century convention of England being known as the “Dowry of Mary” and is the principal pilgrimage in honour of Mary.
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