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Last Updated: Monday, 31 May, 2004, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Archbishop joins shrine pilgrims
Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr Rowan Williams said it was a privilege to be at Walsingham
The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a sermon at one of the country's biggest annual Christian gatherings on Monday.

Thousands of people turned out for this year's National Pilgrimage to Walsingham in Norfolk.

Dr Rowan Williams delivered the sermon to the pilgrims at the village's Our Lady of Walsingham Shrine.

Each year pilgrims visit the shrine, voted England's favourite spiritual place by BBC Radio 4 listeners, for a day or worship and celebration.

'England's Nazareth'

The Archbishop said it was a privilege to join the pilgrims at Walsingham.

"It is a tremendous privilege and delight to be here and I think today shows what people always discover here - that there is something in Christianity that matters," he said.

He took the opportunity to preach about the importance of faith in these troubled times.

Pilgrims at Walsingham
Pilgrims gathering to hear the archbishop's sermon
It is only the second time that the head of the Anglican Church has joined the pilgrimage which, in the last 50 years, has become established as the biggest event in the Anglo-Catholic calendar.

Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times.

Legend has it that in 1061 Richeldis de Faverches, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, had a vision of the Virgin Mary and was moved to create a replica of the Holy House of the Annunciation and "England's Nazareth" was born.

The original shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was destroyed in the Reformation, but the 14th Century Slipper Chapel was later restored.

In 1931 Anglicans established a new Holy House recreated in a small parish church, which was expanded later in the decade to form the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.


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