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Scottish archbishop revives pilgrimage started in the 13th century

Katie Milne as St Margaret beside Archbishop Leo Cushley at Dunfermline Abbey (Photo: Paul McSherry)

Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh has announced the revival of a summer pilgrimage in honour of St Margaret of Scotland that dates back to the 13th century.

The pilgrimage, which has not been held for 40 years, will take place in Dunfermline on Sunday June 28.

Archbishop Cushley at Dunfermline Abbey said: “Today’s announcement of a new summer pilgrimage is very exciting – this will be a real family event to which everybody in Scotland is invited given that St Margaret is an inspirational figure for all Scots as well as a heavenly protectress of the people of our land.”

It is hoped that pilgrims to Dunfermline will spend the day exploring the many historic places associated with St Margaret before gathering in the afternoon for a procession of her relics through the town’s streets led by a local school pipe band.

“The day will then conclude with Holy Mass offered by Archbishop Cushley at our church in the heart of Dunfermline,” explained Fr Chris Heenan of St Margaret’s Memorial Church.

“There’s already quite a buzz about the revival of the pilgrimage … It will be a great day for all the folk of Dunfermline and everybody is very much invited to join in the occasion – not just Catholics”.

The roots of the summer pilgrimage date back to June 1250 when the relics of St Margaret (1045-93) were translated to a new shrine in Dunfermline Abbey following her canonisation that year by Pope Innocent IV. An annual summer pilgrimage to Dunfermline soon emerged and continued until the late 16th century. It was then revived in 1899 and continued again until 1974.

Joining Archbishop Cushley to launch the event was young Fife actress Katie Milne attired as St Margaret. They were accompanied by pipers from the St Columba’s High School – who will lead the pilgrimage procession in June – and children from St Margaret’s primary school.

Katie Milne said: “St Margaret is such a remarkable historical figure in Scotland’s story as well as a fabulous role model for young Scots today – especially young women – it’s an honour to represent her here today.”

St Margaret became Queen of Scots in 1070. She was renowned for her good influence on her husband, King Malcolm III, but also for her Christian piety and her charitable work for the sick and poor while raising eight children of her own.

St Margaret was declared Patroness of Scotland in 1673. She is also the patron saint of mothers.

Jack Pryde, who organises tours of Dunfermline for those interested in the life and legacy of St Margaret, said: “She is probably the most significant female figure in the history of Scotland and achieved a great amount of good – I’ve longed for the summer pilgrimage in her honour to be revived and am really delighted that it is finally happening.”

Organisers said they hoped that pilgrims to Dunfermline will visit the various holy sites associated with St Margaret during the day of June 28.

The procession of the holy relic through the streets of the town will begin at 3pm from the gates of Pittencrieff Park and will conclude at 4pm at the St Margaret Memorial Church.