Thirteen thousand people attend Tamil pilgrimage at Walsingham

The Tamil Two Pilgrimage at The Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham. Picture: Ian Burt

The Tamil Two Pilgrimage at The Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A Norfolk village welcomed around 13,000 Tamil pilgrims today who came to worship the Virgin Mary.

People from Sri Lanka and southern India, living Britain, attended the annual Tamil Two pilgrimage at the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, at Little Walsingham, near Fakenham.

This followed a Tamil pilgrimage to Walsingham, in May, attended by about 8,000.

The majority of pilgrims were Catholic, but there were some Hindus, who also revere the Virgin Mary.

Pilgrimage coordinator Julian Foord said: 'It is the most well-attended event of the year here at Walsingham and, in terms of numbers, it must be the third or fourth biggest one-day event all year in Norfolk.

'We have people here from Middlesbrough, Cardiff, London, Birmingham as well as some more local Tamils.

'It shows their devotion to their religion and it is also lovely to see how Tamils of different religions come together like this.'

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The pilgrims queued for around 90 minutes before spending just a couple of minutes in a small 13th century chapel to pray to a statue of the Virgin Mary.

They lit candles, which symbolise light and hope and attended mass.

Brenda Aloysious, moved to England from Sri Lanka 25 years ago and has been making an annual pilgrimage to Walsingham ever since.

The nursery manager travelled to Walsingham from Harrow, north London.

She said: 'I look forward to it; to come here to pray and to be together with the Tamil community. There are churches like this in Sri Lanka.'

Chandramohan Sathiyaseelan, 36, runs a newsagents in Ramsgate, Kent,

He moved to England from Sri Lanka in 2002 and made his fifth pilgrimage to Walsingham yesterday, when he was joined by his wife Girishanthini and their six-month-old daughter Thalir.

Mr Sathiyaseelan said: 'We are here to show our love for the Virgin Mary. It feels good to be part of this big Tamil celebration and to meet with old friends and make new ones.

'I am also here to pray for the people of Sri Lanka. The government says the civil war ended in Sri Lanka in 2009 but people are still being killed there every day and I pray for peace for them.'

Mr Foord said the pilgrimage has taken three months of planning, with the shrine working closely with Norfolk police and a private security firm.

He said: 'There is a lot of work involved. I'm here at 6.30am and am very tired by the end of the day, but I always look forward to it as the Tamil people are so very friendly and easy to work with.

'There is a wonderful family atmosphere to the day.'

Police said there were no major problems but five people were arrested within the vicinity of the shrine on suspicion of theft.

Superintendent Stuart Gunn said: 'This was nothing unusual for an event attended by 13,000 people and overall there was a great atmosphere and everyone was well behaved.'

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