The annual Christendom pilgrimage, which links Paris to Chartres cathedral over Pentecost, has had to suspend registrations on practical and safety grounds, due to the record number of people wanting to join it.
The three-day, 60-mile walk from Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartres brings together pilgrims from all over the world who are attached to traditional Catholic liturgy. The pilgrimage originated in the 12th century, but in its current form began in 1983.
According to Jean de Tauriers, president of the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté association, over the past seven years, attendance at the pilgrimage has grown by 10% per year. This year, registrations jumped by 33%, with 16,000 walkers preparing to take to the roads of Ile-de-France, compared to 12,000 in 2022.
“For the first time in the history of the pilgrimage in 40 years, we are forced to make the painful decision to close registrations," the organisers Notre-Dame de Chrétienté said on their Facebook page.
“Despite our great missionary desire to welcome all candidates, we are faced with the reality: the size of the bivouacs, the number of tents that can fit there, the length of the column that exceeds 2 hours, making the final pilgrims too late. And, just as important: security requirements….” the statement said.
Pilgrims on the walk are organized into groups of 20-60 people that are referred to as “chapters”. They journey through the streets of Paris and then into the countryside. Each chapter is accompanied by at least one chaplain, who hears confession and gives spiritual direction to each pilgrim.
“It can be muddy, rocky, and demanding, but the rewards of such a penitential exercise are eternal”, the organisation says. “Good sturdy shoes are a must”, it adds.
The mission statement of Notre-Dame de Chrétienté says it works towards “promoting Christendom, which we understand to be the fulfillment within civic life of ‘the kingship of Christ over all creation and, in particular, over human societies’, (Catechism of the Catholic Church N° 2105)”.
Three hundred seminarians and priests will accompany the pilgrims, who belong to 21 different nationalities—mainly French and Europeans, but also travellers from America, Africa, and Asia.
“This decision is not easy to make.," the organisers said about the limit on numbers. “It demonstrates the growing interest of Chartres pilgrims, the majority under 20 years old, in the spirituality and depth of the traditional Mass” the statement concludes.
At the same time, the “Pilgrimage of Tradition,” organised by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, will bring together about 4,000 pilgrims in the opposite direction—from Chartres to Paris.