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Monday, October 24, 2016
Walking pilgrims set out for Holy Island
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Holy Island
The annual Christian cross–carrying Pilgrimage to Holy Island is about to begin. During the week before Easter,  dozens of pilgrims will make the 100 mile trek through Northumberland and the Scottish Borders to the ancient shrine.

Northern Cross starts on Friday 26 March and finishes on the Island of Lindisfarne, (Holy Island)  Northumberland,  on Easter Sunday, 4 April. The pilgrimage began in 1976 and has grown steadily every year.

Therese Bennett, Overall Coordinator of Northern Cross for 2010, said: “Northern Cross is a unique  experience, a week of fellowship which is tremendously enriching as we share in a common journey of pilgrimage together.
“We come from many different denominations, leaving the normality of everyday life, to enjoy some occasionally strenuous walking, new fellowships, and joyful liturgy. Linked by our enthusiasm for walking through beautiful countryside, we constantly grow in many ways as we meet new people along the way, parishioners, passers-by, publicans, and all, sharing prayer, worship and song, and  having a really good time.”

This year's pilgrimage is made up of three groups or ‘Legs’ who will set off for Holy Island - Lindisfarne in Northumberland to join together and celebrate the Easter weekend. They will walk 10 –19 miles per day and each group carries a large wooden cross as a sign of Christian witness. They stay in church and village halls along the route, and join in with  people of local churches for worship. Legs will be starting from Bellingham (Northumberland), Lanark (Strathclyde), and Carlisle (Cumbria). The pilgrims of Northern Cross come from many different denominations, as do the hosts, but are linked by their enthusiasm for walking through beautiful countryside (in all weathers), meeting  new people in pubs as well as churches, sharing prayer, worship and song, and having a really good time.

Chaucer’s pilgrims were a mixed bunch – so is Northern Cross – male and female; young and old, from 7 to 70 and above, walk with us. Most of the route is on small quiet roads, tracks or footpaths and avoids any main roads. Many have walked before and return time and time again.

Therese Bennett said: “People think of pilgrimage as a mediaeval idea, yet the idea of Christian pilgrimage is alive and well today, as can be witnessed by the six million people who go to Lourdes each year, or the countless thousands who in the last 30 years have resurrected the month long walk along the Camino di Santiago, from the Pyrenees to North West Spain. Northern Cross is another example of this. On pilgrimage we find ourselves divested of possessions, just requiring whatever can be carried in a small bag. Cut down to bare essentials, we see ourselves stripped of all trappings of civilisation. We look for meaning in life as we travel through it, and a pilgrimage is a chance to mirror life, and at the same time to step back from life and look to see what the important things are.”

She added: “Northern Cross, and any walking pilgrimage, is a chance to get away from the world, to figuratively carry your house on your back, to have time to commune with nature. The destination itself is not so important alone – it is a goal – but the important thing is to form a small Christian group of people, travelling together on the road, using each others skills, helping each others weaknesses, working as a team to achieve an aim. It is an important part of experiencing the Easter celebration.”

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