The Diocese of East Anglia is set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its formation over the next few weeks with a Solemn Diocesan Mass, a Walsingham pilgrimage, a book launch and a history conference.

The first event is a 40th Anniversary Diocesan Pilgrimage is to be held on Bank Holiday Monday, May 2. The event begins with the Crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham at 12.30pm in Friday Market Place. This will be followed by a procession along the Holy Mile to the Slipper Chapel during which there will be the Rosary and hymns to Our Lady.

On arrival at the Shrine there will be the opportunity for Confessions before the lunch break during which the pilgrims will have the opportunity to pass through the Holy Door. Bishop Alan Hopes will concelebrate Solemn Mass at 3pm.

The theme is “Mary, Mother of Mercy” and there will be involvement from young people from the Diocese who will be going to World Youth Day in July.

The most high profile event is a Solemn Diocesan Mass with Bishop Alan as the principal celebrant and Cardinal Vincent Nichols preaching at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Norwich at 6.30pm on Friday June 3, one day after the actual anniversary of June 2.

Invited guests at the Mass will include six bishops, as well as civic leaders, school students, religious, and ecumenical guests, but by far and away the largest contingent will come from the 50 parishes of the diocese. The hope is that each parish will try to bring 20 people, so that every corner of the scattered and widespread community will be represented. All are welcome and a full cathedral is expected with a large screen to be erected in the Narthex garden.

A one-day conference on the history of Catholicism in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough from the Reformation to the present day is set to take place at the Cathedral Narthex in Norwich on June 11, as part of the celebrations when a book marking the 1,400 years of Catholic history in East Anglia will be launched.

Bishop Alan said: “As we reflect and give thanks for all who have shared this Diocesan pilgrimage thus far, we look forward with a renewed sense of mission for the future.”