14 February 2020, The Tablet

Pope blesses Walsingham 'Mary's Dowry' painting

Walshingham has been a site of pilgrimage for around a thousand years

Pope blesses Walsingham 'Mary's Dowry' painting

Pope Francis blessing the "Dowry Painting", 12th February 2020
ETWN Vatican

Pope Francis this Wednesday blessed a specially commissioned painting of Our Lady of Walsingham, in advance of next month’s “Rededication of England”. The “Dowry Painting”, created by Amanda de Pulford, depicts the founder of the Walsingham shrine, Richeldis, presenting the site’s famous “holy house” to Our lady and the infant Christ. 

Amongst those present at the blessing were de Pulford, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Monsignor John Armitage, Rector of the Walsingham National Shrine. Cardinal Nichols called the blessing “a great encouragement to us all as we prepare for 29 March and our act of Rededication.” The painting will be at Walsingham for the rededication of England as “Mary’s Dowry” on 29 March 2020, after which the painting will visit every Catholic parish in England. 

The rededication ceremony recalls the medieval title for England as “Mary’s Dowry”, documented as in use from 1381, but believed to have originated far earlier. Walshingham itself has been a site of pilgrimage for around 1000 years. In Medieval times, Catholics from across Europe travelled to the Norfolk village, which eventually ranked close to Rome and even Jerusalem as a site of pilgrimage. The shrine, destroyed during the Reformation, was restored as a site of pilgrimage in 1897, and in 1934 was declared to be England’s national shrine to Our Lady.

The current rector of the shrine, Mgr Armitage, was present at Wednesday’s meeting with the Pope, which he referred to as “truly blessed day”. After the blessing, Mgr Armitage took the painting to the tomb of St Gregory the Great, the Pope who commissioned St Augustine’s mission to the English, where he prayed alongside Cardinal Nichols.

According to the official Rededication project, "Behold 2020", the rededication is “both a personal promise of the people of the country, and a renewal of the entrustment vows made by King Richard II in 1381.” A map of places which have offered to host the rededication on 29 March can be found on their website. 

The Walsingham shrine attracts around 150,000 pilgrims each year, not all of whom are Catholic: Tamil pilgrims, the single largest group to visit the shrine last year, are generally a mix of Catholics and Hindus. The National Shrine was granted the title of Minor Basilica by Pope Francis in 2015.

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