The National Shrine of the Immaculate conception announced yesterday a new program of pilgrimages, combining formal religious instruction with a structured program of visits to the shrine.
The new program, to be directed by Msgr. Eugene G. Bilski, assistant director of the shrine, is expected to get under way next February, according to Msgr. John J. Murphy, shrine director.
Pilgrimage groups will be offered a one, two or five-day schedule that will include prayer and religious instruction session designed to deepen the faith of the participants, as well as liturgical celebrations at the shrine.
The longer pilgrimages may also include sight-seeing tours of the city. The program here will be modeled on similar ventures at Sacre Coeur in Paris and the Lourdes shrine, Msgr. Murphy said.
William Cardinal Baum, archbishop of Washington, praised the new program "as a means whereby the faith life of our people can be effectively communicated."
The pilgrimages he said would be conducted "in a context similar to that of medieval Christianity, within which church buildings were used as an effective means of catechetical formation."
He predicted that the new program could make the shrine, completed in 1959, " a center within which our people will come to know and appreciate more deeply their faith as a pilgrim faith."