Monday, 23 July 2012

The Golden Girls and the Bishop

Large numbers of pilgrims arriving!
This morning I got an email from a friend.  “John, what is happening in Santiago? You haven’t written a blog for ages!”
I’m sorry. Life is so busy at the moment. Two new Amigos arrive every two weeks, pilgrim numbers are increasing, the weather has changed from torrential rain, to sun and torrential rain, to sun, sun, sun.
So to bring you all up to date:
The Amigos project is now about half way through the pilot phase of 6 months. In that time some 60,000 pilgrims have been welcomed in the Pilgrims’ Office by the “Amigos in the blue T shirts” as they have become known.  Wearing the blue T shirts are volunteers who give up two weeks of their time and pay for their own travel and subsistence to come and live in Santiago to be of service to their fellow pilgrims. Wearing the blue T shirts are people from every profession and background who share one thing in common – they are all pilgrims who have walked to Santiago. Wearing the blue T shirts are some of the warmest and strongest personalities I have ever met.
Mario and Kay on duty
William off duty
Amigos one and two, the bhoys, Sean and Larry were followed by the much more demure ladies, Patro and Laraine. They were replaced by two characters, one larger than life and the other utterly understated. William Griffiths, doctor, man of letters, ex chairman of the CSJ and general all round bon viveur was joined by Mario Pozzati-Tiepolo, Egyptologist and caligrapher. Both were an instant hit with the staff of the Pilgrims’ Office and the arriving pilgrims.  Both threw themselves into the spirit of the Welcome Service with William presiding in the courtyard with a booming welcome to everyone in many languages and Mario more gently ushering pilgrims to the desks to receive their Compostelas. During their two weeks pilgrim numbers grew and we very much welcomed the assistance of an American professor, Kay Jenkins and one of her students who worked several hours each day. Kay and Dorothy were with a larger group of students from the Institute of Pilgrimage Studies at William and Mary College in Virginia who spent some weeks in study as well as walking part of the Camino Francés.     
The two week periods fly in quickly because everyone works so hard and soon William and Mario were to depart, William back to his consulting rooms and Mario to walk the Camino Inglés. Several of the Amigos either tag a short camino on to the end or the beginning of their stint. They were followed by Mildred and Elizabeth.
Mildred and Elizabeth - the Golden Girls
On their very first day they welcomed a group of strapping cyclists who were jubilant at arriving in Santiago and who laughed and joked as the queue snaked forward. They were tickled pink to be welcomed by these two English ladies and immediately, and very loudly, they nicknamed them  “Las Chicas de Oro”. The “Golden Girls”. The Amigos blushed, everyone laughed, the rest of the pilgrims in the queue repeated the nickname in turn and of course the rogues in the office made sure that for every day of their stay they were called the Golden Girls. They really took them to their hearts and they were very sorry to see the ladies leave.
But leave they had to because Nicole and Julie were next to arrive. Julie is a former teacher and for many years has been the organiser of hospitaleros at one of the CSJ’s albergues at Rabanal. Nicole who lectures in the anthropology of religion at the University of Glasgow walked into Santiago on the Camino Primitivo from Lugo. As they arrived so did the crowds and they spent two weeks of very hard work marshalling pilgrims when it was raining to get them through the office quickly and sympathising with them when it was oppressively hot.
Nicole and Julie
Before going any further I want to say that to become an Amigo you don’ t have to have a professional background or be a lady of a certain age. The only requirement is that you are a pilgrim. So why have I mentioned their backgrounds? For one reason only. That reason is revealed in what the staff of the office say in the staff room about the Amigos. They wonder about us. They speculate about why we do it. They find it very hard to believe. I eavesdrop from time to time. “I mean” said one, “ why would a man who can read and write hierloglyphics help wash the cups and welcome pilgrims all day?” Another joined in, “the two ladies are actually the Golden Girls, at their age why have they paid to come here to stand all day saying hello to pilgrims?” and then, “and the other one, she’s just been a hospitalera and now she is here doing more.” All of this said with a kind of incredulous wonder.  Yet every single pilgrim who reads this page will understand in an instant the desire to put something back, to repay the Camino for its gifts to us, to be of service to other pilgrims as people have been of service to us. This lies as much at the heart of the Amigos service as it is at the heart of the pilgrimage.
Over the course of these first three months the Amigos have also welcomed various groups. Some we’ve known about in advance – pilgrims walking to raise funds for the St Luke’s Cancer Centre in Guildford, students from University College Dublin, the members of the Tylers and Bricklayers Livery Company in London and more. Then just the other day after Nicole and Julie left and Susan and Angela had arrived (more of them another time) the Peterborough Pilgrims Youth Pilgrimage arrived.
Even the Bishop has to queue for his Compostela
The Peterborough Pilgrims are a Confraternity of pilgrims in the Anglican Diocese of Peterborough who had brought a group of about 12 young people plus adults to walk the Camino Francés from León. They wrote to me in advance so that the Amigos could welcome the young people. We also arranged a few special things for them: their own private service in one of the chapels of the Cathedral and a meeting with Don Jenaro the Director of the Pilgrims’ Office who wished to give them his personal welcome to the city. We arranged a splendid victory dinner in the evening.  We also arranged for the group to give an “Invocation”, an address, during the pilgrims' mass in which they would thank all those who help pilgrims. The Peterborough Group were joined for the last few kilometres of their pilgrimage by Bishop John Holbrook, the Anglican Bishop of Brixworth in the Peterborough Diocese. He would give the Invocation.
The Anglican and Catholic Churches are not fully aligned and often the presence of Anglican priests, let alone a Bishop at a Catholic Mass causes some anxiety. I discussed this with the Cathedral authorities well in advance and  was relieved when everything was agreed ...what they would wear, where they would sit, who would read what etc. However when we got to the Cathedral 20 minutes before the Pilgrims’ Mass it seemed all arrangements had been forgotten. No one quite knew what was going on. Would the Anglican Bishop process in with the others and sit at the side as agreed? Errr... Would the Anglican Bishop read the address in English and it would be repeated in Spanish as we had agreed? Errr... The minutes ticked by...the botafumeiro hung expectantly waiting on Mass starting, Joaquin waved as he turned on the organ to start the music. Still we stood, visiting Bishop and young people, not knowing what was happening.  I spoke to Don Jenaro who happened to be in Confessional Number 2. With an air of complete calm he said... “the Invocation will only be in English, go and speak to the security man with the yellow jacket” and so I did. “Ah yes, the other Bishop” and he pointed to a chair. This was the very chair, in the very position, on which sits the King of Spain or his representative on the Feast of St James. I quickly got the Bishop with his purple shirt and hiking boots into position. Frankly we didn’t know what to expect. Would he be ignored? Given a cursory welcome? How would the address go down if no one understood it?
As the Cathedral got more packed and the singing nun finished the rehearsal I had a feeling of dread. This was going to be bad. My heart sank when I saw the stern face of the black-cassocked Dean of the Cathedral approaching the altar. Don José Maria Diaz isn’t the most popular of characters. He can be very gruff and his sermons are traditional to say the least. “Oh my God” I thought, “he’s going to move the Bishop off that chair and into the congregation.” He walked over to the Bishop who stepped towards him.  The two embraced like long lost friends. The Dean was beaming. I could see the welcome on his lips. And then the Dean bowed and kissed the Bishop John's ring. The traditional sign of respect.  As this was happening the young people and adults of the Peterborough Pilgrimage still carrying their rucksacks were led to sit on the steps at the altar rails. The music started, the people sang and the entrance procession began. Like the Anglican Bishop many of the priests still had on their hiking boots. So too did the visiting Spanish Bishop who was presiding at the Mass. There then followed a service overflowing with kindness and generosity to this Anglican Bishop who was perhaps the first, or certainly one of the very few to have spoken at the Pilgrims Mass before the Tomb of St James. After the reading of the Gospel the book was taken as usual to be kissed by the presiding Spanish Bishop then at the signal from Dean it was taken solemnly to be kissed by the Anglican Bishop. Then Bishop John was invited to give the address, which was followed by a similar speech from a Spanish group. Mass proceeded as usual until communion. This was the danger moment in the entire ceremony because as yet Anglicans are not able to receive communion at a Catholic Mass.  As if understanding the difficulty the Catholic Bishop approached the Anglican Bishop who knelt before him to receive his blessing. As communion ended the botafumeiro was lowered into position and the Dean beckoned to Bishop John to come forward. A red box on the altar was opened and incense from it sprinkled by Anglican and Catholic Bishops and priests on to the charcoal. As the botafumeiro flew I saw at least one Bishop dab their eyes. As the botafumeiro was brought to rest the Dean spoke to everyone explaining that his Cathedral was pleased to welcome this Bishop from a different Christian tradition and that a symbol of their fellowship was the gift of incense, made in England, which had been presented by the Peterborough Pilgrims and used at the Mass today. The entire cathedral erupted in applause during which the Dean waved to Bishop John to join the Catholic Bishop for the final blessing. As the Catholic Bishop raised his hand in blessing the Anglican moved to bless only himself. The Catholic stopped. “We give this blessing together” he said. And so it was done.
In the final photograph with the Dean and Bishop John are people of several  faiths and none. They are all joined by the Camino to Santiago.   

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Opportunity to meet, reflect and pray in Santiago

Under the auspices of the
Archicofradía Universal del Apóstol Santiago
Pilgrim Retreat in English
Walking becomes praying
Three days and two nights’ reflection and prayer

... led by Fr Andy Delmege, a pilgrim ...
Hotel San Martín Pinario
Santiago de Compostela
29th - 31st January 2013
bed, breakfast and evening meal approx 35€ per day

Expressions of interest by e mail to
The retreat will be held if sufficient pilgrims are interested

The Archicofradia is the organisation commissioned by the monarchs of Spain and inaugurated in 1499 to build a hospital for pilgrims. It was to be “a Confraternity ordered and instituted, of both sexes, from whichever province or nation, in any part of the world”. Build and run a hospital it did in the building which is now the Parador, the Hostal los Reyes Catolicos. In modern times this religious organisation supports projects to help pilgrims and to encourage pilgrims to be of service to other pilgrims.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

All the numbers from Santiago – growth continues

All the numbers from Santiago – growth continues


The statistics for pilgrims arriving in Santiago for the period 1 January 2012 to 30 June 2012 have now been analysed.

In the first 6 months of the year 67,447 pilgrims have been received in the Pilgrims’ Office. In the same period in 2011, the previous year 63,725 arrived. The increase of 3722 is modest growth of  just less than 6% in the overall numbers.

However much higher growth rates are appearing in the nuberof pilgrims coming from English speaking countries. I have now added a column with the percentage growth comparing 2011 with 2012.   

South Africa
United Kingdom
United States
New Zealand

Analysis of the period 1 January 2012 to 30 June 2012

During the period 67.447 pilgrims arrived

Sorry about the drunken columns - I assure you it is Blogger and not me!  


Spain                           27851 (41,29%)
Germany                     7378 (10,94%)
Portugal                       4703 (6,97%)
Italy                             3600 (5,34%)
France                         3491 (5,18%)
United States              2724 (4,04%)
Ireland                         1752 (2,60%)
United Kingdom         1510 (2,24%)
Holand                       1495 (2,22%)
Canada                        1145 (1,70%)
Brasil                           1033 (1,53%)
Korea                          986 (1,46%)
Austria                        906 (1,34%)
Australia                      756 (1,12%)
Belgium                       736 (1,09%)
Switzerland                 632 (0,94%)
Denmark                     611 (0,91%)
Sweden                       576 (0,85%)
Polonand                     570 (0,85%)
Norway                       431 (0,64%)
Japan                           424 (0,63%)
México                        412 (0,61%)
Finland                        408 (0,60%)
Argentina                    327 (0,48%)
South Africa               312 (0,46%)
Hungary                      269 (0,40%)
Czec Republic             260 (0,39%)
Russia                          191 (0,28%)
Venezuela                   170 (0,25%)
Slovenia                      156 (0,23%)
Colombia                     151 (0,22%)
New Zealand              138 (0,20%)
Slovakia                      130 (0,19%)
Romania                      84 (0,12%)
Chile                            84 (0,12%)
China                           68 (0,10%)
Ecuador                       66 (0,10%)
Uruguay                      61 (0,09%)
Bulgaria                       53 (0,08%)
Puerto Rico                 52 (0,08%)
Lithuania                     51 (0,08%)
Perú                             50 (0,07%)
Israel                           41 (0,06%)
Estonia                        39 (0,06%)
Andorra                       39 (0,06%)
Philippines                  31 (0,05%)
Greece                         30 (0,04%)
Croacia                        30 (0,04%)
Malta                           28 (0,04%)
Luxemburgh                27 (0,04%)
Ukraine                       25 (0,04%)
Costa Rica                   21 (0,03%)

Gender           Number of pilgrims

Men                 38940 (57,73%)
Women            28507 (42,27%)

Method of transport Number of pilgrims
On foot                       57017 (84,54%)
Bicycle                        10204 (15,13%)
Horseback                   217 (0,32%)
Wheelchair users         9 (0,01%)

Reason for pilgrimage          Number of pilgrims

Religious or other reasons       34910 (51,76%)
Religious                                 28920 (42,88%)
Non religious                           3617 (5,36%)

Employment status                Number of pilgrims

Employed                                16156 (23,95%)
Retired                                                11177 (16,57%)
Technicians                             9235 (13,69%)
Students                                  8580 (12,72%)
Self Employed                        7224 (10,71%)
Teachers                                  3539 (5,25%)
Civil Servants                          3472 (5,15%)
Manual workers                      2330 (3,45%)
Unemployed                           1959 (2,90%)
Housewives                             1781 (2,64%)
Directors                                 696 (1,03%)
Artists                                     492 (0,73%)
Priests                                      270 (0,40%)
Farm workers                          223 (0,33%)
Religious                                 150 (0,22%)
Sailors                                     87 (0,13%)
Sports people                          69 (0,10%)
Oikoten                                   7 (0,01%)

Age range                   Number of pilgrims

30 - 60                         38967 (57,77%)
< 30                            14546 (21,57%)
> 60                            13934 (20,66%)

Camino                                   Number of pilgrims

Camino Francés                      47.229 (70,02%)
Camino Portugués                   9.965 (14,77%)
Vía de la Plata                         3.650 (5,51%)
Camino del Norte                   3.308 (4,90%)
Camino Primitivo                    1.905 (2,82%)
Camino Inglés                         1.094 (1,62%)
Otros Caminos                        173 (0,26%)
Muxia, Finisterre                     123 (0,18%)

Starting point Number of pilgrims

Sarria                           13856 (20,54%)
S. Jean P. Port             8257 (12,24%)
Leon                            3760 (5,57%)
Oporto                         3543 (5,25%)
Roncesvalles               3226 (4,78%)
Cebreiro                      3113 (4,62%)
Tui                               2553 (3,79%)
Ponferrada                  2338 (3,47%)
Pamplona                    1741 (2,58%)
Astorga                       1646 (2,44%)
Le Puy                         1473 (2,18%)
Burgos                         1470 (2,18%)
Rest of Portugal          1366 (2,03%)
Sevilla                         1330 (1,97%)
Valenca                       1285 (1,91%)
Oviedo - C.P.              1190 (1,76%)
Ferrol                           1078 (1,60%)
Ourense                       878 (1,30%)
Irun                             862 (1,28%)
France                         859 (1,27%)
Vilafranca                   778 (1,15%)
Triacastela                   538 (0,80%)
Samos                         487 (0,72%)
Lugo - C.P.                 444 (0,66%)
Rest of C. Leon          415 (0,62%)
Lisbon                        413 (0,61%)
Holand                       406 (0,60%)
Ponte de Lima             357 (0,53%)
Logroño                      334 (0,50%)
Santander                    301 (0,45%)
Rest of Asturias          292 (0,43%)
Bilbao                          285 (0,42%)
Germany                     267 (0,40%)
Somport                      260 (0,39%)
Salamanca                   226 (0,34%)
Zamora                        215 (0,32%)
Oviedo                         193 (0,29%)
Ribadeo                       193 (0,29%)
Madrid - C.F.              191 (0,28%)
Gijon                           172 (0,26%)
Chaves-Portugal          159 (0,24%)
Baamonde                   150 (0,22%)
Belgium                       147 (0,22%)
Sahagun                      147 (0,22%)
Vilalba                         146 (0,22%)
Puebla de Sanabria      146 (0,22%)
Aviles                          144 (0,21%)
Braga                           126 (0,19%)
Jaca                             123 (0,18%)
Switzerland                 113 (0,17%)
Rest of Asturias - C.P 111 (0,16%)
Rest of Pais Vasco      106 (0,16%)
A Guarda                    97 (0,14%)
Lourdes                       95 (0,14%)
Vega de Valcarce        92 (0,14%)
Muxia                          90 (0,13%)
Fromista                      84 (0,12%)
Vezelay                       81 (0,12%)
Rest of Andalucia       81 (0,12%)