The “Pilgrimage of Emigrants”

Itineraries of Devotion and Italian Catholic Missions in Southwestern France
By Laure Teulières

The case of Italian immigration in France makes it possible to consider the question of religious attitudes and their long-lasting influence on an immigrant population's destiny. Besides the well-known and widespread Catholic practices, the most interesting is to pinpoint the different changes caused by the migration itself. The analysis focuses on collective pilgrimages, using the example of the populations stemming from the Italian migratory wave that settled in the Midi countryside (region of Toulouse) from the 1920s onwards. Organized under the aegis of the Italian Catholic missions, these rituals represented a great moment of religious practice in a foreign country. They involved, during the interwar period, various “emigrants' pilgrimages” (and so-called) to local shrines, as well as the great Marian Celebrations of the 1950–1960s, when tours were organized in France for the Virgins of Loretta and Fatima. The precise description of those ceremonies underlines the multiple dimensions at stake: renewal of ties for the migrant community, moments that people shared with each other, celebration “in the Italian way” tinged with nostalgia, but also, on the contrary, affirmation of visibility in the settlement society itself, and the advent of new worship itineraries which contributed to create symbolic roots and seemed finally as potential factors of integration.


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