Pilgrims take up their crosses for Holy Week

 Hundreds of pilgrims around the UK have set out on the annual Holy Week walks, carrying large wooden crosses along many ancient routes leading to Christian shrines, as a witness to their faith. The ecumenical groups will be receiving hospitality from many different religious groups as they journey across the country. Student Cross consists of nine groups who walk to the shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham in Norfolk - one of the most popular shrine in pre-Reformation Europe. Each group consists of 20-25 people. They are setting out from Nottingham, Leicester, Kettering, London, Oxford, Colchester, Ely, Kings Lynn, and North Elmham. Northern Cross consists of five groups walking to Lindisfarne, Holy Island, in Northumberland - once a great monastic missionary community which was home to many saints including St Cuthbert and St Aiden. They are starting from Lanark, Haddington, East Lothian in Scotland, Bellingham in Northumberland, and Melrose and Carlisle in Cumbria. One route will goes up the River Clyde and down the River tweed, another will follow Hadrian's Wall and the Pennine Way. Scottish Cross is walking to Iona in Argyle - another early monastic missionary community where St Columba and many others once lived. One group from Drynen, Loch Lomond, follows the West Highland Way to Oban and then cross the Isle of Mull. A second group starts from Fort William. Holy Cross walks to Worth Abbey in Sussex Groups start from Winchester and Fareham following the mediaeval Pilgrims Way across the Downs. Each group will walk about 110 miles in seven days. The crosses vary in weight - some light enough to be carried by one person, others needing three people to carry them. People from seven to 70 from all churches have taken part - including a man in a wheelchair. Student Cross began 57 years ago just after the end of World War Two, when pilgrims walked from London to Walsingham. At that time a number of ex-servicemen formed one group. Their crosses can still be seen at Walsingham. A spokesman said: "We do this in order to celebrate Easter in unique and meaningful way - to bear witness to our faith and to build a real Christian community on our journey." For more information visit these sites: Student Cross: www.studentcross.org.uk Northern Cross: www.northerncross.co.uk Scottish Cross: www.scottishcross.org.uk Holy Cross: www. worthabbey.org.uk

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