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Hot date at Walsingham

by Glyn Paflin 

THOUSANDS of pilgrims thronged to Walsingham on Monday, when the Archbishop of Canterbury preached at the National Pilgrimage, led the singing of the Angelus, and gave benediction with the Blessed Sacrament at the Anglican Shrine.

The Shrine authorities’ estimate was of 4000 people around the Abbey grounds, where 17 bishops attended the concelebrated mass led by the Bishop in Europe, Dr Geoffrey Rowell, for the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

To mark the Archbishop’s visit, commenorative mugs were on sale in the Shrine shop; and Dr Williams was applauded when the Revd Philip North, the Shrine Administrator, observed that, though some of Dr Williams’s predecessors had been to Walsingham, "never before has a pilgrim been made Archbishop of Canterbury. You are an inspiration to us all as the leader of our Church."

Dr Williams urged the pilgrims to give more room in their lives to God. They would be "magnified", he said, "not by rushing around in panic defending ourselves and standing on our dignity, but by being still enough to reflect and absorb the light flowing from God the Holy Trinity, something so wonderful that it can put into perspective the fears and pettinesses that we think are real life."

Then: "At a time when we are forced to confront daily the images of wilful human blasphemy against the image of God in others . . . we need to hear Our Lady’s challenge: she sings for the insulted and injured everywhere — in Iraq and Zimbabwe and her own Holy Land.

"And she calls us in her Son’s name not only to be still and let God flower in us, but to let God’s justice work in us and through us also, as we seek to make room for each other with love and respect in our tormented and petrified world."

There were three "Rs", he said. "Relate — be in the company of God and God’s friends to be reminded of what faith is; relinquish — let go of what stops you being human, fear and prejudice, and the longing to be known to be always in the right; receive — welcome with gratitude and reverence what God gives you through each other, through friend and stranger."

By common consent, this year’s programme was improved by the introduction of a lunch interval after the mass. It lent an appearance of Glyndebourne to "Stiffkey’s fair vale", as picnics unfolded at leisure in the Abbey grounds. Umbrellas were brought out as protection from the sunshine, which relented only when the day’s devotions were over.

By then, the small group of Protestants with placards, whose witness by the village pump this year was subdued, had melted away, leaving some of The Bull’s most splendidly attired customers in possession of the Common Place.

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