On Saturday, 8 October, Bishop John Sherrington and Paul McAleenan led a pilgrimage of mercy to St Albans, in honour of the proto-martyr of England who is also a patron saint of the diocese. The ecumenical pilgrimage was a sign of the shared witness to the message of Jesus Christ.
Over a hundred pilgrims from Hertfordshire and London joined the pilgrimage, which saw a re-enactment of the life and martyrdom of St Alban in Verulamium Park and the cathedral orchard, before processing into the cathedral past the shrine of the martyr. Several schools from the diocese took part in the re-enactment and procession, including Nicholas Breakspear, St Michael’s Catholic High School, Newman Catholic College, St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School and Pope Paul Catholic Primary School.
On hand to welcome the pilgrims for ecumenical Evensong was Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans.
Preaching at Evensong, Bishop John referred to the commissioning of the 19 pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby earlier in the week in Rome at an historic meeting to mark the 50 years of dialogue and friendship between the two churches. The bishops, he said, ‘were sent to the countries of the world as a sign of the common desire to renew our common service together and witness to our common mission to spread the promise and hope of Jesus Christ’.
He explained: ‘In the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the meeting in Rome and our pilgrimage today are symbols of the way in which we seek to proclaim the power and freedom of God’s mercy not only to believers but to those who are distant from the Church and those who have never heard the promise of Christ to love, save and walk with all people.’
Referring to St Alban’s martyrdom, as well as to the calling of St Matthew and the conversion of St Paul in which they all received the gifts of God’s grace and mercy, he continued, ‘like any gift, the joy of receiving is to share it with others’. In this Year of Mercy, all are called to share this gift through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, to bring the love of Christ to those on the margins. Recalling the words of the common declaration of Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, he said that as the pilgrims leave this Cathedral, ‘we carry in our hearts the hope and encouragement…“that Catholics and Anglicans will work together to give voice to our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to bring relief to the suffering, to bring peace where there is conflict, to bring dignity where it is denied and trampled upon”’.
Additional photos from the pilgrimage can be found here.
The full text of Bishop John's homily can be found here.