Bishops stress hospitality for Camino de Santiago hosts

 

15-07-2017
EWTN

The bishops of Spain and France have published a new letter emphasizing the importance of hospitality for people who host pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, offering guidelines for how they can welcome and care for the spiritual needs of those making the long trek.In the letter the bishops noted that hospitality is a tradition that has been practiced in all ages and civilizations, and “is not to question or to prosecute, but only to welcome, to give food and drink, a bed and money for the trip, words of esteem and direction.”It is the same kindness that Abraham showed to the strangers who came to his door in Mambre, and is “the mercy that the Samaritan showed to the wounded man, carrying him to an inn and leaving money so that he could be healed and recovered during the necessary time,” they said.Published July 12, the letter is titled “Welcome and Hospitality on the Camino,” and is directed at those who host pilgrims that walk the historic “Camino de Santiago,” or “the Way of St. James.”Often referred to simply as “the Camino,” it is an ancient pilgrimage consisting of a network of trails across Europe all leading to the tomb of the saint in Santiago, Spain.Pilgrims have been making the journey for well over a thousand years to commemorate the life and sacrifice of the apostle. Although it is traditionally a religious pilgrimage, many non-believers also make the trek for a variety of motivating reasons.The requirement to be a certified pilgrim of the Camino states that walkers must complete at least 100 kilometers, or about 62 miles.Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, individual or in groups, make the Camino each year, staying at hostels, low-cost hotels, with families or in religious communities along the way.In the 20-page long letter, published in Spanish, the bishops of Spain and France pointed to the fact that hospitality “has a long tradition  along the Camino de Santiago.”This history, they noted, “was not always the most desirable,” and at times was marked by greed, deceit and a lack of compassion for the poor and sick. However, in recent decades the Camino has again taken up and multiplied hospitable initiatives and gestures.“The presence of Christians on the Camino is essential to maintain the religious tradition of the great pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and to be active witnesses of faith in Christ,” they said, insisting that there be “visible signs” of the faith in places where pilgrims stay, but “without being exaggerated.”As part of showing specifically “Christian” hospitality, the bishops asked that there be a crucifix at the entrance of the house or institution as well as one in each room. They also asked that there be an image of St. James, and accompanying brochures that explain his life.

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