Pilgrims back on track after pandemic

A pilgrim in 2018 (CNS/CaminoDocumentary.org)

After a year of being kept off Spain’s Camino de Santiago due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, soul-searchers are once again strapping on backpacks and following trails to the reported burial place of the apostle St James. Source: Sight Magazine.

The Camino de Santiago is a series of paths that fan out beyond the Iberian Peninsula and spread across Europe. Whichever route one takes, they all end at the Santiago’s baroque cathedral, where believers can visit what is said to be the tomb of James, the apostle who, according to Catholic tradition, brought Christianity to Spain and Portugal.

More than 340,000 people walked “El Camino” in 2019. Only 50,000 walked it last year, when Spain blocked both foreign and domestic travel except for during the summer months.

Before a state of emergency that limited travel between Spain’s regions ended on May 9, only a handful of Spanish pilgrims were arriving in Santiago each day and registering with the Pilgrim’s Reception Office to receive their official credential for having completed the pilgrimage.

Now that travel is again permitted, more people from Spain and elsewhere in Europe are walking the ancient path, although many of the hostels that cater to pilgrims them are still closed. A few hundred arrive in Santiago each day, compared to the several thousand exhausted pilgrims swinging their walking sticks along the city’s cobblestone streets during a typical summer.

The numbers of pilgrims arriving in Santiago over the 18 months will be boosted after Pope Francis extended the 2021 Jubilee Year dedicated to St James through to 2022.


Ancient walkways: Pilgrims return to Spain’s 'El Camino' paths after pandemic (By Joseph Wilson and Iain Sullivan, AP via Sight Magazine)

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