Pilgrimage returns with seven celebrities facing a challenging new journey through Portugal

For brand new BBC Two and iPlayer series



The critically acclaimed Pilgrimage series returns to BBC Two and iPlayer in Spring 2023 with a new 3x60 minute series.

In what will be another demanding route, Pilgrimage: The Road through Portugal (w/t) takes seven well known personalities of differing faiths and beliefs on a personal journey along the northern route of the Fatima Way in Portugal.

The seven celebrity pilgrims taking part in Pilgrimage: The Road through Portugal (w/t) are actor Su Pollard, who was raised Church of England; Jewish actress Rita Simons; Pentecostal Born-Again Christian, Shane Lynch of Boyzone fame; reality TV star and influencer, Vicky Pattison, who is agnostic; Bobby Seagull, a practising Catholic, maths whizz and TV personality; Nabil Abdulrashid, a comedian and practising Muslim; and Paralympian skier Millie Knight, who is non-practising Church of England.

Their destination is the Sanctuary in the city of Fatima, where in 1917 three local shepherd children experienced several apparitions of the Virgin Mary. What was once a small village is now one of the biggest Catholic pilgrimage destinations in the world.

For the first time ever, the celebrity pilgrims are on a deadline: they need to arrive in time for a major celebration which ends with a spectacular night-time candlelit vigil, attended by nearly 70,000 pilgrims who have travelled from across the world to celebrate the story of the miraculous apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

Tackling this 364km pilgrimage over 15 days, the celebrity pilgrims will travel through the heart of northern Portugal’s stunning landscapes. Carrying their own backpacks, they will sleep in rough and ready pilgrim hostels, a basic campsite, as well as a working fire station. It’s a tough challenge, so will they all make it to Fatima on time?

Along the route, the pilgrims will visit many places of significant interest including Bom Jesus do Monte, a UNESCO world heritage site and a medieval synagogue, which became a prison and a hayloft, before being preserved as a museum, recapturing its former history. In Coimbra, the capital of Portugal in the early Middle Ages, they visit a closed order of nuns and meet Sister Ana Sofia who served alongside Sister Lucia, one of the shepherd children, before she died. The pilgrims hear first-hand how sister Lucia's life changed after the seemingly miraculous events that put a small Portuguese village on the global stage.

On their journey, the celebrity pilgrims explore each other’s faiths; whilst sampling local delicacies in Mealhada, a small town famous for its roast suckling pigs, they discover the dark history behind this traditional culinary speciality and its implications 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.”

Now into its fifth series, the Pilgrimage series is going from strength to strength and continues to delight and entertain the BBC Two audience. The fourth series, Pilgrimage: The Road to the Scottish Isles was the BBC’s highest rating religion title in 2022 (Jan-Nov), with an average audience of 2.1 million watching across both broadcast and iPlayer.

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.

Source BBC One

January 31, 2023 3:00am ET by Pressparty  


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