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Belgium’s Christian pilgrimage sites attract 1.2 million visitors

15:01 15/08/2023

Belgium’s four main sites for Christian pilgrimage attracted some 1.27 million visits in 2022, an increase over the dwindling numbers seen during the coronavirus pandemic.

The four sites are Scherpenheuvel (which saw 600,000 visitors), Oostakker (250,000), Banneux (220,000) and Beauraing (200,000).

Beauraing celebrated the 90th anniversary of its Marian apparitions in 2022, a milestone that could have also drawn more visitors.

The two reception centres at Banneux also recorded 20,000 overnight stays, according to the Belgian Bishops' Conference, while Scherpenheuvel registered 1,430 and Beauraing 1,937.

The four sanctuaries employ 42 full-time workers, supported by 252 volunteers, to welcome and accompany pilgrims.

Most of the volunteers work at Banneux, which regularly welcomes large groups of foreign pilgrims.

In addition to these four major sites, the Belgian dioceses have many more local devotional sites which also saw a return of visitors in 2022.

In Flanders, Our Lady of Rest in Heppeneert welcomed 125,000 pilgrims, while 50,000 people visited the Basilica of Our Lady in Dadizele and 10,000 went to the Basilica of Saint Martin in Hal.

Visitor numbers for 2023 are not yet known, but Scherpenheuvel will be celebrating a festival held only every 25 years, which will likely attract greater numbers than usual to the shrine.

Photo: Michielverbeek/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons

Written by Helen Lyons