EUROPEAN SHRINE DIRECTORS GATHER IN ENGLAND

Say Pilgrimages Are More Popular Than Ever

WALSINGHAM, England, SEPT. 26, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Shrine directors from across Europe converged on one of England’s oldest Marian shrines today to discuss the present popularity in religious pilgrimage sites.

Directors from Germany, Slovenia, Romania, England, Poland, France, Ireland and Portugal will meet through Friday at the National Shrine of Walsingham, in Norfolk County. The theme of the gathering is “Evangelization and Gestures of Popular Piety.”

This year, the shrine is celebrating its 950th anniversary, and has had one of its busiest pilgrimage seasons ever, having received approximately 100,000 pilgrims.

Father Alan Williams, Walsingham’s shrine director, commented on the popularity of shrines in statement sent to ZENIT, “Many people visit Catholic shrines who are either not Christian or rarely attend church. They have an interest in spirituality and are willing to travel as part of that search.

“Our task, as shrine directors, is to make that experience as fulfilling and rewarding as we can and that’s what we’ll be discussing this week, as well as sharing news and information.”

Given the ecumenical nature of Walsingham, which is home to both Anglican and Catholic shrines, Bishop Lindsay Urwin, administrator of the Anglican shrine, will be joining the conference. The delegates will pray Evensong at the Anglican Cathedral in Norwich.

The meeting is chaired by Bishop Jacques Perrier of Lourdes, France.

In 1061, Richeldis de Faverches constructed in Walsingham a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth, claiming that the Virgin Mary had appeared to her.

In 1538, the shrine was suppressed, the statue burnt and thrown into the River Thames and all seemed lost. After centuries of ruin, Catholics returned in 1897 in formal pilgrimage to the Slipper Chapel, which was to become England’s National Shrine in 1934.

Increasing numbers of Anglicans also made their way to Walsingham, and an Anglican Shrine was initially established in St. Marys Parish Church before the move to a newly reconstructed holy house in 1931.

The village also houses Orthodox and Methodist chapels.

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