The open Holy Door at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Attribution: Itto Ogami.

Holy year is here!

The Xacobeo (Holy Year) has begun and will extend into 2022.

The Xacobeo is a special event on the Camino since it only takes place when the July 25th feast of the Apostle St James falls on a Sunday. The last Holy Year was 2010. What makes this Xacobeo even more special is that Pope Francis has extended it to the end of 2022 to help people undertake the pilgrimage during the pandemic.

Holy Year began on with the opening of the Holy Door at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The pope wrote a letter to the Archbishop Julian Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela to mark the opening saying: “The pilgrim is capable of placing himself or herself in God’s hands, aware that the promised homeland is present in the one who wished to make camp amid his people, to guide their journey.”

The pope’s message reflected on the theme of walking on pilgrimage saying that like many pilgrims who have embarked on the Camino, Christians are called to leave behind “those securities to which we tie ourselves, but still having our goal clear; we are not vagabonds who go around in circles without going anywhere.”

“It is the voice of the Lord who calls us and, as pilgrims, we welcome him with an attitude of listening and searching, taking this journey toward the encounter with God, with the other and with ourselves,” he wrote.

He suggested that walking symbolizes conversion in that it is an “existential experience in which the goal is just as important as the journey itself.”

He referred to that process whereby pilgrims on the Camino often travel with or find companions along the way whom they can trust “without suspicions or doubts” and who share in their “struggles and achievements.”

“It is a journey that began alone, carrying things one thought would be useful, but it ends with an empty backpack and a heart full of experiences that stands in contrast to and in tune with the lives of other brothers and sisters who come from different existential and cultural contexts,” the pope wrote.

He said that experience: ”is a lesson that should accompany us our whole lives.” So what makes Holy Year so special? The first Holy Year was established by Pope Callisto II in 1122 for the year 1126. The Holy Years have been celebrated since then when the feast of Santiago (St James) each July 25th falls on a Sunday. Holy Years occur in a sequence of 6, 5 and 11 years apart. For Catholics Holy Year is special as the Catholic Church promised to pardon the sins of everyone who took the pilgrimage to the Apostle’s tomb during Holy Year, which is known as “earning the Jubilee”. This full indulgence reaches the same rank of importance as that obtained by a pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem. But anyone can earn the Jubilee by completing these three steps to gain an indulgence: visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, say a prayer and pray for the Pope’s intentions, confess and receive communion.

The Holy Door at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is only open during Holy Year so pilgrims can experience the privilege of entering the cathedral through it. As is also customary during Holy Year, the lantern of the Berenguela Clock Tower in Santiago de Compostela is lit for the duration of the Xacobeo, showing the Way for pilgrims. This year is particularly special as renovations conducted to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela throughout 2020 have been completed. The cathedral is open and it can be visited every day.

In addition, the Camino pilgrimage routes will be hosting events throughout the year: concerts, art exhibitions, conferences, talks, and films. So the Xacobeo is likely to be a very lively time that attracts pilgrims, especially so given that restrictions because of the pandemic meant many people will be eager to get back out on the Camino again at the first opportunity.

We hope that you will decide to join us on one of our walking tours on the Camino this year or the next. For those who are concerned about traveling during the pandemic, our tours can provide the answer. Our tours offer pilgrims the chance to travel in a small group and stay in small hotels so you will not have to worry about booking accommodation. Clients will be able to have their own rooms rather than sleep in a dormitory. Our emphasis is on safety as much as proving a rich cultural experience; in addition to any requirements from airlines or countries, we will be using rapid COVID tests to periodically test everyone on a tour. Each Autonomous Community on the Camino can establish its own rules regarding capacity restrictions, group activities and public transport, but our experienced guides will navigate all the restrictions for you, helping to make your experience as relaxing as possible. We are outside for a large part of the day, and almost always eat lunch outdoors. At night, our group will be segregated from other patrons for dinner, and we will of course insist that all of the servers and staff follow proper precautions. We also offer customized private tours to give you the perfect chance to walk a beautiful and historic path with the ones you love, and do it as safely as possible. Come join us to celebrate the Xacobeo!

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