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Thousands join vibrant pilgrimage at Walsingham

Over 3,500 pilgrims representing the vibrant, multi-cultural Catholic church gathered at the National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham on Sunday September 4 for the annual Dowry of Mary Pilgrimage. Keith Morris reports.

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 Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Ghana, India, Ethiopia, Lithuania, Filipino, Congo, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Nigeria, Vietnam and across the UK.

A solemn Mass of Our Lady was then presided over by Bishop Alan in the open air Chapel of Reconciliation.

"How wonderful it is to be gathered together from so many nations as one people and family united in our faith and common purpose to make Jesus Christ known to all," said Bishop Alan in his welcome.

"We offer ourselves in prayer and solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters who are being systematically persecuted and martyred in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, India and in many other places. Let us pray for an end to all acts of terrorism and for peace and harmony and reconciliation."

Giving the homily, Bishop Alan spoke about the rebuilding of the Walsingham Shrine after its destruction 500 years ago on the orders of Henry VIII.

"Today, in this pilgrimage, we are called upon to pray for the reconversion of our country to the Christian faith and to rebuild the shrine of Walsingham in a spiritual sense ' that is to rebuild the Christian culture of our land.

"Have we got what it takes, the spiritual bricks and mortar that we need to rebuild the Christian culture in this land and to make it an effective force for the common good in the public market place,” said Bishop Alan.

"To do this we need a spirit of co-operation with one another. Looking at you pilgrims today we see what a vibrant and multi-cultural church we are. The church is greatly enriched by the presence of so many people from the different countries of the world ' we would be the poorer without you.

"At a time when Europe is fragmenting because of its abandonment of our common faith, you remind the wider world of the cohesion and unity that is possible because of the one Lord Jesus Christ, the good shepherd who gathers all of his people into the one sheepfold. We have to work to make this unity in the church a daily reality."

The Mass was followed by picnic lunches for most and then a procession along the Holy Mile between the Catholic Shrine and Walsingham Abbey where Bishop Alan conducted a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and prayers at the original shrine site in the Abbey grounds.

This pilgrimage is the only time during the year that Catholics are able to conduct a service here. 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.

See a full picture gallery and a short video of the event below:

Dowry of Mary Pilgrimage - Walsingham RC Shrine, Sept16