New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
News >

Anglicans keep Lourdes anniversary

by Simon Caldwell

EIGHT Church of England bishops are together planning to make an unprecedented group pilgrimage to the Roman Catholic shrine of Lourdes on the 150th anniversary of the reported appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St Bernadette.

Since the early 1970s, Anglican bishops have visited the shrine in the foothills of the French Pyrenees at the rate of about one or two a year, but now, for the first time, the Society of Mary, one of the Church of England’s Catholic Societies, has organised a pilgrimage for a large group of Anglican bishops, along with about 400 lay worshippers.

The pilgrims will fly to Lourdes on 22 September, and celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham there two days later, before returning home on 26 September. The bishops are planning to take with them a “life-size” replica of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The Vicar of St Silas’s, Kentish Town, in London, the Revd Graeme Rowlands, who is organising the pilgrimage, said that the purpose of the visit was to help to fulfil the “Christian unity mission” of the Lourdes 150th-anniversary jubilee year. “We are the only pilgrimage that is representing the theme of Christian unity, and I am very pleased and very humbled by it really.”

The party will include the diocesan bishops of Blackburn and Gibraltar in Europe, the suffragans Whitby and Edmonton, and the “flying” bishops, Richborough, Beverley, and Ebbsfleet. They will be joined by Bishop Noël Jones, formerly of Sodor & Man. More are expected to sign up in the months to come.

The RC Bishop of East Anglia, the Rt Revd Michael Evans, who chairs the Department of Christian Unity of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said that he was delighted that so many Anglican bishops would be visiting Lourdes together. “Many Christians believe that devotion to Mary is a key way towards the growing unity of Christians and we hope very much that this pilgrimage will further Anglicans and Catholics along the paths of unity.”

There were 18 reported Marian apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous, a peasant girl, in 1858. The Virgin was said to have announced herself as the “Immaculate Conception” and told Bernadette to dig for a spring at which many seek healing. Six million pilgrims, many of them ill, disabled and dying, make pilgrimages to Lourdes each year.

To mark the jubilee year, the Roman Catholic Church has identified 12 missions that, besides Christian unity, include peace, care for the sick and marginalised, and conversion. Pope Benedict XVI is also offering a special indulgence to anybody who takes part in a public or private devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes on key dates during the year, which began on 8 December, the feast of the Conception, last year, and ends on the same day this year.

Job of the week


East Midlands

Are you an inspiring leader with a vision for mission, evangelism and new expressions of church? CLIFF COLLEGE PRINCIPAL For appointment from July/September 2016 Set in the idyllic surroundings o...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

Open all hours for daily bread

Open all hours for daily bread

A village church in the Peak District is exploring a new form of service, Pat Ashworth reports  Subscribe to read more

Question of the week
Can Islamic State be defeated only by military means?

To prevent multiple voting, we now ask readers to be logged in. This is free, quick and easy, honestly. Click here to login or register

Top comment

Social cohesion can defeat terror

Community-building undermines extremism: churches can help here, says Alan Billings  Read More

Thu 26 Nov 15 @ 11:55
Open for daily bread | A church in the Peak District is exploring a new form of service

Thu 26 Nov 15 @ 10:54
Archdeacon of Buckingham, the Ven. Karen Marisa Gorham, appointed Bishop of Sherborne