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Suffolk pilgrim completes 2,000km walk to Rome

Suffolk Catholic, 69-year-old Mary Kirk, has successfully completed an epic 2,000km pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome, shedding tears of emotion and relief as she walked into St Peter's Square last week (Friday October 21).

Mary, who lives near Halesworth, spent 75 days on the road walking through five countries – England, France, Switzerland, Italy and the Vatican. A knee injury forced her to take a break mid journey to recover, but she finished the route known as the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome on Friday October 21, walking the final kilometres with two fellow pilgrims from Switzerland.

"To be with people with whom one can without embarrassment shed tears of emotion and relief as one arrives in St Peter's Square was a privilege," said Mary, who worships in Harleston in the Catholic Parish of St Edmunds (Bungay).

"I did the pilgrimage as a Catholic in this Year of Mercy, mindful of my need of mercy, but knowing in my heart that pilgrimage is in the journey, and that the trappings of arrival are but symbols of what has gone on inside oneself.

"It is too soon to know what I feel, what if anything has changed, what perspectives shifted. I have experienced the incredible kindness and generosity of strangers. I have seen faith and love in action. I know how dependent I am on others, and how much we are all interdependent.

"It has, I hope, taught me trust, for so many angels attended me in my travels, and came to my aid when I was lost, miserable, in pain or need. More than anything, perhaps, it has provided proof yet again that bonds become swiftly strong when we are stripped of what in "normal" life defines us ' our jobs, cars, houses, possessions, clothes, accents. With none of the factors that cause us, even unconsciously, to judge, we relate to the other within the moment, and intensely. Is this perhaps "the kingdom of God'?"

Mary received a Latin certificate, the Testimonium, awarded to those who have walked the final 100km or more to the tomb of Peter, after providing proof with a pilgrim passport stamped every day in churches, ostelli (pilgrim hostels), convents, town halls, and even bars or hotels as proof of passage.

Mary was walking in support of refugees "who are travelling in the opposite direction to escape war and horror", and for the homeless in the UK, and she raised around £1000 for Refugee Action and Shelter.

You can read a blog of Mary's journey at: Action)

Pictured above is Mary Kirk in St Peter's Square in Rome after her epic 2,000km pilgrimage.