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The National Pilgrimage

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National Pilgrimage 2017

The National Pilgrimage this year was a 'Beacon Event' for the Archbishops' 'Thy Kingdom Come' initiative.



Beginning on Saturday evening with a Pilgrimage Mass, at which the Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley & Master of the Guardians, was Principal Celebrant and Preacher, there followed 40 hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the Shrine Church.


On Sunday, as the Forty Hours continued, there was an Ecumenical Vigil in the Parish Church with addresses by the Bishop of Norwich and the Abbot of Farnborough.


On Monday, at noon, The Rt Revd Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, was the Principal Celebrant at the Mass in the Abbey Grounds.


After lunch the Sermon was preached by Padre Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap. Preacher to the Papal Household.

(See below for a summary of Fr Cantalamessa's sermon)


The Procession, with the  Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich and the Rt Revd Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia, returned to the Abbey Grounds for the presentation of icons to both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Shrines.

The weekend concluded with Vespers and Benediction in the Shrine Church.

Read the address given by Dom Cuthbert Brogan OSB, the Abbot of Farnborough at the Ecumenical Vigil - click here.

Read the address given by the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich at the Ecumenical Vigil - click here

Visit the Shrine Photo-Gallery for photos of the whole weekend.

Archbishop of Canterbury’s Greeting to Walsingham

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, sent warm greetings to the hundreds of pilgrims gathered in Walsingham on the Spring Bank Holiday Monday for the annual National Pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine in Norfolk.

Pilgrims from across the UK, and including some overseas visitors, heard Father Kevin Smith, Priest Administrator, read out thankful support for the 40 hours of constant prayer in support of the Archbishop’s initiative Thy Kingdom Come leading up to the start of today’s National at 12noon.

Archbishop Welby said: Prayer matters, and prayer changes everything. Because as God changes us in prayer he drives us out to be justice-seekers, peacemakers, healers and bringers of good news. In praying, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ we all commit to playing our part in the renewal of the nations and the transformation of communities.

He added: “And so it is wonderful that so many are gathered here in Walsingham, ready to join in prayer and action with all those across the world praying these same words, Thy Kingdom Come.”

Hope takes centre stage at Walsingham

(A Summary of Fr Raniero Cantalamessa's sermon at the National Pilgrimage; for the full text click here.)

“People need hope to live just as
they need oxygen to breathe” - Fr Cantalamessa

It is Mary, Mother of hope, who continues to inspire and encourage millions of Christians around the world to face up to the challenges they face, Father Raniero Cantalamessa OFM.Cap told pilgrims at the 2017 National Pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham.

The Preacher to the Papal Household told the thousands of people gathered: “On Calvary, Mary was not just the ‘Mother of sorrows’ but also the ‘Mother of hope,’ With all the more reason we must say the same about Mary beneath the cross: in hope she believed against hope.”

Fr Raniero Cantalamessa OFM.Cap is an internationally renowned preacher and author. Since 1980 he has served Pope S. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis as Preacher to the Papal Household.

He told the Bank Holiday congregation: “Mary is a model for the Church. The Church is called to be, like her, ‘a mother of hope’ for the world. Just as Mary was close to her crucified Son, so the Church is called to be close to the crucified of today: the poor, the suffering, the humiliated, the insulted, the discriminated against.”

Fr Cantalamessa said: “The Church must transmit hope, proclaiming that suffering is not absurd, that it is meaningful, because there will be a resurrection of the body in the last day and there can be a resurrection of the heart every day. People need hope to live just as they need oxygen to breathe.”

He also told pilgrims that perhaps the Christian faith will experience a revival in England and in the wider secularised western world for the same reason that it was embraced in the first place “because it is the only doctrine that has an answer to give to the great questions about life and death. The most important thing is to understand how we can proclaim hope today to the world in which we live.

“The failure of the great alternative ideologies, like Marxism, has led people to live from day to day without any great enthusiasm or excitement about the future. Hope is transmitted by contagion.

He added: “Christian hope has eternal life as its ultimate object, but it does not exclude the lesser human hopes for oneself and one’s children, as finding a job, overcoming an illness, meeting the right person to love and be loved by.”





In 1938 the Whitsun weekend saw a huge influx of pilgrims to Walsingham to witness the blessing of the much enlarged Shrine Church.  As had become customary, there was a great procession from the Parish Church to the Shrine . It was estimated that the procession took "one hour less three minutes" to pass the Common Place and that 6,000 pilgrims passed through the Holy House. In the report of the weekend in the 1938 Our Lady's Mirror (the forerunner of the present Walsingham Review) the intention was announced to hold a similar day pilgrimage "as an annual event every Whit Monday."

This indeed happened in 1939 and 1940, but then, for the remainder of World War II, the pilgrimage went into abeyance. 1946 saw its highly successful revival - but pouring rain meant the procession had to be cancelled! The Whit Monday great pilgrimage became known as the "National" in 1959 - after one of the guardians, the present Earl of Lauderdale, had written to The Church Times urging people to join the Whit Monday pilgrimage, describing it as "the first National Pilgrimage in the history of the Church of England to the Shrine of the Incarnation at Walsingham."

In 1971 the Whit Monday bank holiday was moved to the last Monday in May and the National Pilgrimage moved from Whitsuntide to this date. The only cancellation since 1946 was in 2001 because of the Foot and Mouth epidemic.

The Walsingham Archive pages contain fascinating accounts and much more information on the history of the National. Did you know, for example, that there were not enough cows in Walsingham to supply the milk needed for the pilgrims' tea on Whit Monday 1938? Or that 106 pilgrims had breakfast at The Clock Restaurant in Welwyn Garden City on their way to Walsingham and between them, left 4d (four pence) in tips! Go to the Archive home page, enter the Archives and find "Whit Monday Pilgrimages".

Since 2004, when the programme of the National Pilgrimage was recast to include a lunch-break, the practice of formal picnicking in The Abbey grounds has grown. Last year, there was a wonderful sense of togetherness as pilgrims from all over the country produced hampers, tables and chairs  - and the Walsingham National Pilgrimage lunch party began! If you are coming to this year's event, do think about bringing a picnic - of course the sun will shine and the grass be dry!

The Procession in Common Place in 2009

Our Lady of Walsingham and Our Lady of Lourdes 2009


Useful information about the National

The weather - (dare one say it) the National is remarkably blessed with good weather. Washouts, fortunately, are very rare. In 2006 whilst the rest of Britain had torrential rain, this little bit of north Norfolk remained sunny and dry until the evening (see picture opposite). But do come prepared. 2007 saw the worst weather for the National since 1983. You never can tell! 2008 - 2014 was mainly dry and sunny; just the occasional bit of drizzle.

The two services (12 noon Mass and 2.30 pm Sermon, Procession and Benediction) take place in the grounds of The Abbey - the gardens of the house which was created from the ruins of the original Walsingham Priory. Pilgrims are welcome to picnic in the gardens during the lunch interval (1.00 pm - 2.30 pm). Since the lunch interval was created in 2004 there has been steady increase in the numbers choosing to bring their own picnic, tables and chairs, often meeting up with friends for an enjoyable meal. (See below for information on obtaining refreshments.)

There are car parks (cost: 3.50) for pilgrims (in addition to the permanent one west of the Common Place) in Church Street (by the farm entrance on the sunken road) and in Wells Road (just north of the war memorial)

Coaches should approach Walsingham on what is now the B1155 from Fakenham  to Wells-next-the-Sea (the so-called "dry road"). A right-hand turn at Egmere and then travelling a mile along the Egmere Road,  gives easy access to the Coach Park - members of the Shrine National Pilgrimage Stewarding team will be on duty all day at the Coach Park.

The main High Street and part of Holt Road will be closed to traffic from approximately 11.00 am until after Benediction. Please follow the alternative directions given by the police to get around the village.

Many pilgrims come to Walsingham for the day; others prefer to stay for the weekend. The Shrine accommodation is always fully booked a year in advance - as is that of the RC Pilgrim Bureau - but there are opportunities to rent local cottages for the weekend or the week (school half-term). For further information about Bed and Breakfast establishments and cottage hire contact the local Tourist Board in Walsingham - tel: 01328 820510.

The National Pilgrimage Programme & Handbook (cost 3.50 - schoolchildren free) contains both information and the services for the day. Do make sure you buy one - it all also serves as your admission pass to The Abbey. They are available from various points in the Shrine and at the entrances to The Abbey - both the High Street archway and the drive gates on the sunken road. There is a charge of 2 per child for the children's activity tent.

Entering The Abbey grounds - please use the main Abbey archway in the High Street when entering and leaving the grounds. Use of the small Knight's Gate opposite the Shrine Church is restricted to pass-holders.

All Priests Associate of the Holy House are invited to concelebrate the Mass. They should be in the Shrine Church by 11.20 am with an alb and a white stole. (See Membership - Priests Associate for details of becoming a Priest Associate)

Seats are not provided for the congregation. Please bring a collapsible chair if you would prefer not to sit on the grass. Bring a rug or ground sheet in case of damp weather if sitting on the grass.

There are public lavatories by The Abbey archway and inside the grounds. In the Shrine grounds facilities are available in the refectory/Norton Room.

Pilgrims in wheelchairs have a special area reserved for them near the altar. Stewards will give directions.

BSL Interpretation - the worship is signed and a special area is reserved near the altar for those who wish to take advantage of this. Stewards will give directions.

Changing and feeding facilities for babies are available. Please ask a steward for directions.

First Aid - a paramedic and members of the St John's Ambulance Brigade will be on duty. In an emergency please get assistance from one of the Stewards.

Refreshments - in case you forget your picnic - are available in the Norton Room (situated below the Pilgrim Refectory in the Shrine Grounds.) After the procession and Benediction, tea will be served in the main refectory. There are also several tea shops in Walsingham High Street, the Walsingham Farms Shop in Guild Street and the Norfolk Riddle Restaurant (plus fish and chip shop) across the road by the war memorial.

The Shrine Church will be locked at 11.00 am and will remain locked until after the Mass. It will be locked again between 2.20 pm and the end of Benediction.



Brightly dawns the 2006 National day! - early arrivals await the procession from the Shrine (above) - the organist gets organised (below)

The procession to Mass leaving the Shrine Church in 2005 - the Shrine's famous "Maltese" lanterns to the fore (above); the return procession passes the Common Place (below)



  The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham, Norfolk NR22 6BP | Tel: 01328 820255 | Fax: 01328 824206