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All About Mary

Pilgrimages and Shrines: a Delayed Recognition

Pilgrimages and Shrines: A Recognition Long Delayed

– Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.

Published in Marian Studies, Volume 51 (2000)

Since Pope Boniface VIII instituted the first Holy Year in 1300, pilgrimage has been a part of the Holy Year observance. The few extant ecclesial statements referring to pilgrimage were usually issued as part of the announcements of the "holy years" In the document announcing the Great Jubilee of 2000, Mysterium Incarnationis (MI), John Paul II wrote, "In the course of its history, the institution of the Jubilee has been enriched by signs which attest to the faith and foster the devotion of the Christian people. Among these, the first is the notion of pilgrimage, which is linked to the situation of man who readily describes his life as a journey" (MI, 7). Although the journey motif is central to pilgrimage, Christian history always included a goal for pilgrimage, a place considered holy, for example, the centers of Christianity—Jerusalem, Rome—or a shrine. From relative neglect in academic circles, pilgrimage and shrines have in the last forty years assumed a greater role in Catholic consciousness, especially in the Great Jubilee 2000. Here we purpose to outline the development of pilgrimage in Christian history, and then to review how, in recent years, both pilgrimage and shrines have received some ecclesial and theological recognition, not only as part of popular devotion but also for their importance in catechesis and evangelization.

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