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“Pilgrimage” The Road through Portugal To Air This Spring on BBC Two




In the spring of 2023, BBC Two and iPlayer will once again air the critically acclaimed Pilgrimage series.

Pilgrimage: The Road through Portugal (w/t) follows the journey of seven famous people of varying faiths and beliefs as they make a pilgrimage along the northern path of the Fatima Way in Portugal.

Actress Su Pollard, who was brought up in the Church of England, Jewish actress Rita Simons, Pentecostal Born-Again Christian Shane Lynch of Boyzone fame, agnostic reality TV star and influencer Vicky Pattison, Bobby Seagull, a math whiz and TV personality, Nabil Abdulrashid, a comedian and practising Muslim, and non-practising Paralympic skier Millie Knight also make up the seven celebrity pilgrims

Their final destination is Fatima’s Sanctuary, the site of many apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three local shepherd children in 1917. Once only a little settlement, it has grown into a major Catholic pilgrimage site.

For the first time ever, the celebrity pilgrims are racing against the clock to make it to the final event of the celebration, a stunning candlelit vigil attended by approximately 70,000 people from all over the world who have come to honour the narrative of the miraculous apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

The celebrity pilgrims will spend 15 days traversing the beautiful landscapes of northern Portugal along a distance of 364 kilometres. They will be self-sufficient, travelling with only the supplies they need in their own backpacks, and staying at places like a fire station and a primitive camping area. Will everyone be able to make it to Fatima in time, considering how difficult the task is?

They will see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bom Jesus do Monte, as well as a mediaeval synagogue that was formerly a prison and a hayloft before being conserved as a museum and giving visitors a glimpse into its past lives. They travel to Coimbra, Portugal’s mediaeval city, to meet Sister Ana Sofia, a member of a secret order of nuns who worked with Sister Lucia, one of the shepherd girls, before she passed away. Sister Lucia tells the story of how her life transformed when a series of remarkable events brought a tiny Portuguese community to the attention of the world.

While in Mealhada, a small town known for its roast suckling piglets, the celebrity pilgrims sample local specialties and learn the sad history behind this traditional culinary speciality and its ramifications for some of the pilgrims’ religions.

Revealing why they chose to join this pilgrimage, the celebrity pilgrims commented:

Su Pollard, 72, says: “I’m not deeply religious but I do like to think that God is my friend and when you’re on a journey like this, without your usual comforting things around you, you’ve got more time to talk to yourself and ask yourself certain questions.”

Bobby Seagull, 38, says: “The reason I’m taking on this pilgrimage is because I’ve reached a crossroads in my life where faith has played a big part, but at stages it has drifted. I would like to understand whether faith can play a big part in my life going forward, and undergoing this pilgrimage is the greatest opportunity I will have. It’s rare in life that we have a few days, let alone a couple of weeks to really look into ourselves in that manner. I’m hoping there could be a new Bobby at the end of this experience.”

Vicky Pattison, 34, says: “I’ve never used the word pilgrimage in my life. I don’t think I know what this means but as you get older, your life becomes smaller and that’s okay, but you can quickly become stagnant, and I don’t want to be stagnant. I want to constantly be growing and evolving and becoming better. I think by challenging myself and by getting out of my comfort zone, that’s when I can broaden my horizons. I know there’ll be some differing viewpoints, some faiths I’m not familiar with, some opinions that are probably different to mine, but I think the key to us all getting along is just understanding.”

Rita Simons, 45, says: “I’m not entirely sure how comfortable I am about revealing to the Jewish community how little I practice the religion. I do think it’s very important to know who you are, regardless of how people may judge you and I am comfortable at 45 with who I am.”

Shane Lynch, 46, says: “I am a Pentecostal Born Again Christian. My relationship with God is very tight and I love it. The reason why I’m taking on this pilgrimage is just to find a bit of clarity in my life. I want to put myself into a position that I’ve never experienced before and hopefully find out some amazing and emotional things, so this pilgrimage for me is all about the knowledge I can gather, and about my God. This will be big walk for sure, for many reasons.”

Millie Knight, 23, says: “I definitely believe in God but it’s not something I really talk about publicly – it’s something I keep very private. Whether it’s exploring other people’s faiths or just being inquisitive, I think this pilgrimage could be really cool. I think to question and to doubt faith is the way to gain strength. However, I am the world’s worst walker. I know I’m an elite athlete, but my sport is all about gravity, and that’s how I get down a mountain, so I am taking on this challenge because I like to prove myself wrong.”

Nabil Abdulrashid, 37, says: “I went on a pilgrimage to Mecca as a kid, but I’m yet to do it as an adult, so it’s kind of funny that I’m going on a Catholic pilgrimage first! Obviously, I will not be partaking in any of the religious rituals, but I’ll obviously give them their due respect, as I like seeing and learning new things. Watching any group of people do something for the sake of God, even if it’s not my way, will be inspiring.

“I’m not looking forward to sleeping in tents and dorms. I’ve never shared a room, except in marriage. I like my space and being in a dorm with people, inhaling other people’s farts, will be a challenge. But there are worse situations in life – I’m just being a diva.”

The Pilgrimage series, now in its fifth season, is a huge hit with BBC Two viewers and shows no signs of slowing down. With an average of 2.1 million viewers across broadcast and iPlayer in 2022 (Jan-Nov), Pilgrimage: The Road to the Scottish Isles, the fourth season, was the highest-rated BBC religion title.

Daisy Scalchi, BBC Head of Religion and Ethics, says: “Pilgrimage is a unique series, using travelogue as a way to explore conversations about faith and belief from a variety of perspectives, with the spirit of curiosity, respect and understanding. We see viewers’ appetite for programmes about belief, morality and spirituality is as strong as ever and Pilgrimage provides an extraordinary opportunity to bring these discussions to a wide audience.”

Caroline Matthews, Executive Producer and CEO, CTVC says: “The power of Pilgrimage is that you never know what experiences the celebrity pilgrims will have on their journey and this new series is no exception! Returning with a brilliant new cast, they physically dig deep, talk faith and ponder life’s big questions. As ever, stripped of their creature comforts, there is strong camaraderie, tears and a healthy dollop of humour to see them through their epic journey.”

Pilgrimage: The Road through Portugal (w/t) (3 x 60 minutes) is a CTVC production and has been commissioned by Daisy Scalchi, BBC Head of Religion and Ethnics. The series is Executive Produced by CTVC’s Caroline Matthews and Michele Kurland.