Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spain: Record for Pilgrimage of St. James

The Holy Year of James in Santiago de Compstela has come to an end -- Correspondent's Report by Manuel Meyer
St. James in Battle

Santiago de Compostela ( KAP)  With a historic record number of pilgrims, the "Holy Year of James" is at an end this Friday in the northern Spanish pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela.  "It is almost inconceivable, but we have registered a total number of 271.93", said the director of the Office of Pilgrimage in Santiago, Jenaro Cebrian, says Katholischen Nachrichten-Agentur  (KNA)  In his "wildest dreams" it was at the most 240.000... in any case, he had prepared his office well and had even ordered ten temporary employees; but still no one could have figured on such a massive surge in numbers, said the director of the Pilgrimage Office.

Especially chaotic were the busiest Months of July and August. "In July we had 40.000 and in August   60.000 registered pilgrims -- we've never had so many before."  The number of pilgrims has been climbing continuously in the past years.  In the "Holy Year of James" in 1993 there were 99.436;  in the last "Xacobeo"  2004 there were another 179.944.

 "The Spanish James Pilgrimmage is today as beloved as never before",  said Ignacio Santos also, General Director of the Xacobeo-Consortium, which is responsible for the organizing of the "Year of St. James".  In order to care for the mass of pilgrims, the Consortium erected ten new hospices on the various St. James Pilgrimage routes through Spain.  In addition there were mobile Pilgrim shelters established along the beloved "French way", so that no pilgrim would have to sleep under the open sky.  Even so there weren't enough sleeping areas.  "I had to walk until five o'clock in the morning, so that I could get to the the next day's destination.  Otherwise I would have not gotten a bed",  said 39 year old Madrilene Cesar Perez, who had taken the "French way" .

For all, the destination is Santiago, to which all eight of the paths go, the place to which all are bound.  In addition, there are more than 2.000 cultural events of the accompanying cultural performances with demonstrations, concerts and other events which in the estimation o fthe media consist of about eight million visiters who have been drawn to the city.  Actually not everyone is pleased by this.   "When you have been walking through nature all week and are looking for reflection, the arrival in Santiago can be almost a shock",  said Cesar Perez.

The Church tried to accomodate the pilgrims with five daily pilgrimage Masses and spiritual conferences.  For this there were not a few pilgrims who would have liked more peace at the end of their jounrey.  Even for Xacobeo-Director Ignacio Santos it was a balancing act between the protection of the religious character of the pilgrimage and its commercial exploitation, whose business element is very important in the financially poor region.

Next to the plenary indulgence for every Pilgrim who goes to the "St. James Year" in Santiago and goes to confession, even the market crisis in Spain plays an enormous role in the climb of the number of pilgrims:  many see the pilgrimage as a suitable alternative to a vacation, says Jenaro Cebrian.

The Pope too admonished the pilgrims on his visit at the beginning of November to Santiago, that the pilgrims do not exhaust their  wonder in seeking out some destination for its natural beauty, artistic treasures or history.  It's more important for a pilgrim to have an encounter with God in a place, which he has shown himself in a particular way.

From the tomb of the Aposgle Benedict XVI. recalled Europe to its "Christian roots".  And even at the beginning of the "Holy Year" he had expressed his hope that as many, who have gone further from believe in God, might come back to him.  And the faithful should be encouraged by the pilgrimage to rethink their Faith and to deepen it.

A "Holy Year" always takes place in Santiago when the previous year the date of the Apostle's death the 25th of July should fall on a Sunday.  That will not take place again until 2021.

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