Pope Francis has given the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in England a rare honour. The shrine – specifically the Slipper Chapel, the Chapel of Reconciliation and the Domain – has been granted minor basilica status. The announcement was made by Bishop Alan Hopes of East Anglia on the feast of the Holy Family on Sunday. Walsingham now joins only three other locations in Britain with minor basilica status – Corpus Christi in Manchester, Downside Abbey in Somerset and St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham. Walsingham is the first site to be given such status since 1941.
According to tradition, the shrine at Walsingham, known as England’s Nazareth, dates back to the 11th century, when the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to the lady of the manor, Richeldis de Faverches, who prayed that she might undertake some special work in honour of Our Lady. In response, the Virgin Mary led her in spirit to Nazareth, showed her the house where the Annunciation occurred, and asked her to build a replica in Walsingham to serve as a perpetual memorial.
Bishop Hopes said: “The Holy See’s recognition of the importance of the church in Walsingham is a recognition of the growth and witness of the shrine over these many years since its re-establishment after its destruction during the period of the Reformation, for its constant witness to the importance of marriage and family life and its pastoral care of the tens of thousands of pilgrims who make their journey to the shrine every year.