Picture gallery: Archbishop of Canterbury in Walsingham for annual youth pilgrimage
- Credit: Matthew Usher
The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of his joy to be at 'one of the most important spiritual centres of northern Europe' when he visited Walsingham yesterday.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby joined 650 young people and their leaders at the annual youth pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
He took part in a torchlight procession along the 'Holy Mile' which extends from the Roman Catholic slipper chapel to the village of Walsingham and the Anglican Shrine.
Before the destruction of the shrine in the 16th century medieval pilgrims would walk the last mile of their pilgrimage barefoot from the chapel and the tradition continues today.
The Archbishop said: 'Walsingham is one of the most important spiritual centres in northern Europe and I'm delighted to be here.
'It is an important place for the Church of England and I have been extremely impressed by the work being done here. It draws people to faith. They come and meet God and go away changed and it is really encouraging to see.'
The Archbishop used to holiday in nearby Blakeney and Cley when he was a child. This is the second time he has been to Walsingham.
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He said: 'It's great to be back in Norfolk and this youth pilgrimage is amazing. It's wonderful to see so many young people come here from all over the country and it feels great to be a part of.'
The youth pilgrimage in Walsingham has grown significantly over the last 10 years.
Visitors have travelled from as far as Sweden to take part.
Bishop Lindsay Urwin, administrator of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, said: 'It is a great honour to have the Archbishop here. I think it highlights the importance of Walsingham as a major pilgrimage centre.
'When the shrine was re-instated in 1930s people never would have imagined that an Archbishop of Canterbury would visit Walsingham - since then several have.
'It is interesting that the Archbishop decided to come here so soon after taking the role.
'He asked to come and felt it important to be here and to join the young people as a fellow pilgrim.'
The campsite in Walsingham where the pilgrims have been staying has had a '00 heaven' James Bond theme this year to symbolise the fight of good against evil.'
The Archbishop is due to give a Bible study in Walsingham this morning before leaving.
Walsingham's spiritual history dates back to a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared in the dreams of a Walsingham widow in 1061.
It sparked religious fervour which brought kings, queens and international fame to the tiny Norfolk village, near Fakenham, and still draws people in today.