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10 million pilgrims expected at Compostela during holy year

Catholic World News - January 05, 2010

Amid the reading of a papal message, the chimes of a thousand bells, and fireworks, a holy year has begun in Compostela, one of Europe’s great centers of pilgrimage. Ten million pilgrims are expected to travel to the northwestern Spanish city to venerate the relics of St. James the Greater during the holy year, which is held whenever his feast day (July 25) falls on a Sunday.

“During this Holy Year, in keeping with the current Year for Priests, a decisive role falls to the clergy, whose spirit of welcome and commitment to the faithful and to pilgrims has to be particularly generous,” Pope Benedict wrote in his message for the occasion. Priests, he writes, should be particularly devoted to “the administration of the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, because the most sought after, valuable and characteristic element of the holy year is forgiveness and the encounter with the living Christ.” “The Middles Ages were the golden age of pilgrimage,” the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments noted in a 2001 document. “Apart from their strictly religious function, they played an extraordinary part in the development of Western Christianity, the amalgamation of various nations, and to the interchange of ideas and values from every European civilization ... The shrine of Santiago de Compostela from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries was frequented by countless pilgrims. They came on foot from various countries and reflect an idea of pilgrimage that is at once religious, social, and charitable.”

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