ONCE again, St Alban was executed (right)
during the annual Alban Pilgrimage, as an estimated 3000 people
made their way from Verulamium Park to St Albans
Cathedral. Hundreds of children took part, dressed as roses,
soldiers, stained-glass windows, angels, and monks. Mercifully, the
rain held off as the giant puppets re-enacted the martyrdom, and
the crowd watched in silence.
It included, this year, a new huge puppet
in the form of St Amphibalus, the priest with whom Alban exchanged
his cloak so that the priest could escape execution while Alban
took his place. And there was an extra element when a new
ecumenical link was signed between St AlbansCathedral and the Roman
Catholic basilica of the Holy House of Loreto.
The idea came from the participation by a
group of young people from St Albans at an ecumenical youth camp at
Loreto, one of Italy's great places of pilgrimage, where, according
to pious belief, angels deposited the small cottage that was
Jesus's early home, having carried it there from Nazareth. It is
now encased in marble in the basilica.
Honoured guests at the festival evensong in
the cathedral were members of a group from Loreto, including the
Rector, Fr Giuliano Viabile, dressed in a simple black cassock in
contrast to the gorgeous red and gold copes of the Anglican
The ecumenical agreement was signed during
the service by the Rector, and by the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt
Revd Alan Smith, and the Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Jeffrey
Two archbishops added to the full panoply of ecumenical dignity,
as the signing took place. Present were the RC Archbishop of
Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, who preached at
evensong, and said that it had been a special joy for him to take
part in the pilgrimage; and the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, had
preached earlier in the day at the festival eucharist.