The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, celebrated the ancient tradition of pilgrimage on Sunday 5 October 2014 by walking with pilgrims through Canterbury and by preaching at Evensong in the Cathedral. The Archbishop, along with the Bishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott and the Canon Pastor of the Cathedral, Clare Edwards, joined around 120 pilgrims, some of whom had journeyed from Winchester, to walk the final mile into Canterbury Cathedral.
Preaching afterwards in the Cathedral during a special Evensong service, the Archbishop praised those who had participated in pilgrimages. He said that ‘Pilgrimage is not a strategy, it is an encounter’, adding: “Pilgrimage, like the journey through life, begins with possibilities. We set out with a sense of purpose, but with not much certainty.” he added: “Our journeys are not well marked; we find ourselves in places we don’t expect with people we don’t expect…We encounter God in ways we don’t expect.”
Referring to the story of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), the Archbishop described how two followers of Jesus, walking away from Jerusalem after the crucifixion, ‘the wrong way’, encountered Jesus and were changed. “As we journey, if we are open to possibilities and if we abandon ourselves to God, we find ourselves changed… Like the people on the road to Emmaus, we are filled with good news and we can become witnesses to the world.” He concluded: “When we journey together we find God’s love; we can share this love with the world.”
The service on Sunday concluded a weekend of events organised to celebrate the heritage and tradition of Pilgrimage. On Friday 3 October, the Canterbury Diocesan Green Pilgrimage Network Canterbury Partnership was launched, a global network of pilgrim cities and sacred sites whose vision is that pilgrims, and the places that host them, will become models of care for the environment.
A new website that provides detailed information about the Pilgrim’s Way, the route from Winchester to Canterbury, was also launched: www.pilgrimswaycanterbury.org
Canterbury and the Cathedral have long since had a historic connection with pilgrimage and as a holy place and part of a World Heritage Site, the Cathedral still welcomes Pilgrims today. It is a destination for those who have travelled the Pilgrim’s Way, the ancient Pilgrim paths from Winchester, Rochester and Southwark and it is often the starting point for those en route to European Pilgrimage sites such as Santiago de Compostela in Spain and the Via Francigena to Rome.
Canon Pastor of Canterbury Cathedral, Clare Edwards, who joined the pilgrimage from Winchester to Canterbury, spoke about the role of Canterbury as a pilgrim destination: “Pilgrims come from all around the world. For some, Canterbury is their destination; and for others the place from which they set out. They travel on foot, bicycle, horseback, in vintage cars, disability scooters, cars and coaches. You name it, they do it! It’s wonderful to be part of their journeys.”
Further information from: Emily Shepherd, Director of Communications, Canterbury Diocese 01227 459 401, 07876 210 446, firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about the Green Pilgrimage Network: