MORE than 100 pilgrims gathered to hear the personal reflections from two prolific pilgrim trail bishops as the Church of England's Diocese of Durham prepares to adopt four of the region's new Northern Saints Trails.

The Bishop of Durham the Rt Revd Paul Butler and the Rt Revd Stephen Cotterill, currently Bishop of Chelmsford, and soon to be the next Archbishop of York, attended a meeting at St Giles' Church, in Durham.

The gathering was one of the launch events for the Diocese of Durham 2020 Year of Pilgrimage, that will see the whole diocese engage in a range of activities.

The event also marked the countdown to Bishop Paul embarking on walking four of the six new Northern Saints Trails, which will be opened by at Durham Cathedral on St Cuthbert’s Day, on March 20.

Bishop Paul will lead inaugural pilgrimages along The Way of Life, The Way of Love, The Way of Learning and The Way of Light, which all lead to the shrine of St Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral.

Two other routes, The Angel’s Way and The Way of the Sea provide links to give pilgrims continuous pilgrimage routes between Lindisfarne and Durham.

The fact that the individual routes are all called ‘ways’ has a particular resonance for Christians because in earlier times the Christian Faith was referred to as The Way.

Bishop Stephen spoke about his own experiences journeying along the way of the Camino del Norte (Camino being Spanish for Way) – the Northern route of the Camino Santiago in 2016.

He said: “Pilgrimage is the way – it’s the journey of life, it teaches us to learn as we journey through life.

"We must be the first generation of Christians that think that pilgrimage is about arriving rather than the journey - our forebears knew the truth that we have neglected: that all the important things are learned on the way.”

Bishop Paul will embark on the first Pilgrimage Walk along the Way of Life from Gainford to Durham, with a launch celebration in Gainford at 3pm on Palm Sunday, before walking the route from Monday to Wednesday.

On Maundy Thursday, pilgrims will meet at St Oswald’s Church to walk together up to the Durham Cathedral.

Bishop Paul said: “I think the big thing is it encourages people to take a bit of time-out. To walk, to discover things about themselves, about other people, about communities but above all about God.

"So for me, walking these routes is a means by which people have an opportunity to spend some time discovering the living God as they discover themselves and people around them.

"One of the things I love about the new routes is that they are short enough for a large number of people to do them. We’re also going to work on ways of sharing in those walks even if you can’t do them."

Further pilgrimage walks will be on: The Way of Love, Hartlepool to Durham May 21 to 23; The Way of Learning, Jarrow to Durham May 25 to 27; The Way of Light, Heavenfield/Hexham to Durham May 28 to 31.

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