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Pilgrimage against abortion draws pro-lifers to Norfolk village

PUBLISHED: 20:06 07 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 11 October 2018

Walking through Walsingham towards the shrine, pilgrims on the pro-life walk. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Walking through Walsingham towards the shrine, pilgrims on the pro-life walk. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

Pro-life campaigners from across the country descended on a small Norfolk village this weekend in an annual pilgrimage.

The Catholic pilgrimage, which is one of many attracted to the shrine at Walsingham every year, was led by Most Rev Kevin McDonald, Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark.

The Archbishop said: “We come together at a time of great trouble in our world, with natural disasters and continuing wars. In our country, and also in the church, we have a lot to bring before god in prayer and supplication.

“We think for example of the recent referendum in Ireland and the alarm and shock that meant so many of us felt at its result.”

In May, Ireland voted to overturn a ban on abortion.

Over twelve hundred people travelled to the small village of Walsingham to take part in the pro-life religious events. Picture: Neil DidsburyOver twelve hundred people travelled to the small village of Walsingham to take part in the pro-life religious events. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The Archbishop spoke about a meeting of Commonwealth leaders he attended earlier in the year and said while discussing religious freedom he became “uneasy about the language of choice”.

He said: “We don’t use the language of choice and it struck me that religion is actually not a matter of choice.”

He instead said it was God’s choice, and gave examples from religious texts.

“It’s important I think for the pro-life movement,” he said. “Because we live in a culture in which personal choice and personal entitlement have become absolutely centre stage. The right to live according to one’s own choices and the aspiration to be a person who will be defined by their own choices, especially in areas of gender, sexuality and reproduction, has become the new wisdom. The new orthodoxy, taken for granted as the way people are to think.

“But if I make my choices on the basis of what seems to feel right for me, on the basis of my fears and my aspirations those choices will be at the expense of others, including the unborn.”

But some women felt the pilgrimage, which began in 1984, was unwelcome in Norfolk.

Sophie Bunce, 20, a student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) said: “Having this kind of protest near where I live feels like a threat.”

She said: “Every woman should have complete autonomy over her body. In UEA’s student bubble it’s easy to forget some disagree with that. Using unborn children to condemn unwilling women into motherhood is wrong, and so is using religion to justify it.”

Worshipers were also encouraged not only to pray but take action and write to their MPs to oppose a 10-minute rule bill, to be introduced by MP Diana Johnson next month, that will seek to make it possible for women in Northern Ireland to have a termination.

• To keep up to date with health news in Norfolk and Waveney follow the EDP’s health correspondent on Facebook.

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