Following his weekly audience at the Vatican Feb. 12, Pope Francis blessed this “Dowry Painting” of Our Lady of Walsingham, the Catholic national shrine dedicated to Mary in Norfolk, England. (CNS, courtesy of Behold 2020)

WALSINGHAM, England (CNS) — English Catholics rededicated their country as Mary’s Dowry “in the eye of the storm” of the coronavirus pandemic.

Because of restrictions on movement and assembly to slow down the transmission of COVID-19, an estimated 530,000 people attempted to join the rededication by watching livestreaming services from parishes, churches and the National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk. The volume of traffic volume was so high by the rededication time of noon March 29 that it caused the website of the Walsingham shrine to crash, along with the livestreams in cathedrals and parishes provided by, a technology firm offering media platforms within churches.

Viewers were redirected to watch the event over YouTube instead.

The first dedication of England as Mary’s Dowry was carried out in 1381 by King Richard II amid great domestic turmoil, with the intention that the country was set aside for the guidance and protection of Mary.

In his homily during the rededication, Msgr. John Armitage, rector of the Walsingham shrine, said when the English bishops decided in 2017 to rededicate England, “they could never have foreseen the extent of our need at this time.”

“Today we undertake this dedication in the eye of the storm,” he said. “In the face of the peril that we find ourselves in today, in addition to the physical resilience we need to protect ourselves, a stronger spiritual resilience will be needed to survive the ordeal ahead and to rebuild our society in the coming days.

“The fruitfulness of England in the days to come will be dependent on the faithfulness of her people.”

He added that England was at present also “humbled by the dedication of the thousands of men and women, who, in the face of such danger each day, serve the sick and those in need and enable our locked-down communities to survive.”

“May their dedication be blessed, and their spirits be strengthened,” he said.