April 22, 2021

The Xunta and the Church call millions of pilgrims to visit Santiago in a Holy Year full of uncertainties and that will last until 2022


The last hours of 2020 have served to certify that the different paths started by the Xunta de Galicia and the Church in 1993, with the question of the custody of the Holy Year in dispute, are still underway. The coronavirus has frustrated the plans of the Feijóo Government to make Xacobeo 2021 an economic engine watered with public money and that in its last edition (2010) touched the figure of 10 million visitors. The celebration, fixed by Vatican criteria, is tied to a year of which no one knows what it will bring and in the middle of a closure that affects tourism worldwide. For all this, the Vatican has listened to the requests made from Galicia for the celebration to be extended until 2022.

Feijóo will give free insurance to tourists who visit Galicia during the Xacobeo to cover expenses if they become infected with coronavirus

Feijóo will give free insurance to tourists who visit Galicia during the Xacobeo to cover expenses if they become infected with coronavirus

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The Galician Government has done everything possible to convince Pope Francis of the need to extend the Holy Year. Feijóo came to request the mediation of King Felipe VI last September during the hearing that he granted after his victory in the last regional elections. There have been many messages sent to the capital of Christianity and even a letter sent by Ciudadanos, without parliamentary representation in Galicia, asking the pontiff for his “consideration” on an extension to avoid the pandemic and open the roads that lead to Compostela. The church, however, seemed to be turning in profile and it was necessary to wait until the last minute of the opening ceremony of the Holy Door for the Vatican nuncio, Bernardito Auza, to announce the decision.

Auza has taken the floor to read a decree of the apostolic penitentiary, dated at the beginning of this month of December, in which, taking into account the difficult circumstances that are experienced around the world by the COVID-19 pandemic , the Pope agrees to extend the spiritual gifts linked to the Holy Year throughout 2022.

Living in Santiago for a Holy Year is a kind of spiritual open bar in which it is enough to listen to mass in the main church of the city, take communion and say two prayers for the pope to be free from all sin without the need for penance. The norms that the archbishopric clarifies in a press release indicate that jubilee graces can be received once a day and that one can even do it on behalf of a person who is already dead. According to data from the Xunta, in 2010 (the last time the offer was in force) 9.2 million people traveled to Santiago attracted by that call and also by the restaurants, cities and beaches that Galicia offers to tourism . Many arrived on foot, through a path whose longest route stretches for 940 kilometers of trails that start in French Aquitaine. Tourism or spirituality? This is the dichotomy that establishes the different approaches with which Iglesia and Xunta approach each Holy Year.

In 1993, with Manuel Fraga at the head of the Galician Government, the unity of action around the apostolic celebration was broken for the first time. It was then that the Xunta invented the term Xacobeo, taking a discreet distance from the terminology of the Holy Year. That December 31st, during the opening of the Holy Door, several leaders of the PP could be seen putting the stones that had fallen on the floor of the cathedral in their pockets after the archbishop hit the side door with a silver mallet. of the temple that only opens in the years in which July 25 falls on a Sunday. What followed was an intense tourist program that attracted to Santiago the main musical figures of the international scene such as BB King, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen or Nina Simone. That 1993 went down in history as the first “modern Holy Year”, something similar to what Feijóo planned for 2021 and that now he will be able to find shelter in the less unfortunate days that are expected for 2022.

Although the Galician authorities are seen in all the events organized by the church, the religious weight of the celebration is nothing like that which marked another Holy Year in history, that of 1982. On that occasion, Pope John Paul II traveled to Santiago to star in the party. Days before he was seen in Madrid. The chronicle offered by the newspaper El País that day carried a headline in the key of reprimand: “The Pope criticizes before 250,000 young people the pasotismo, violence and exasperated sex.” On November 9, five days after his warnings in the capital of Spain, Karol Wojtyla arrived in Santiago to officiate a mass in which he assured that the Catholic faith and the identity of the Spanish people are the same thing. In the Praza do Obradoiro a group of sailors was waiting for him, to whom, after the Eucharist, he dedicated the following words: “We are all in the boat of Christ.”

For this Xacobeo the Xunta has reserved a box with 85.6 million euros, whose final use is a mystery pending the evolution of the pandemic. The team that accompanies Feijóo in the work of Government frequently repeats that the Xacobeo is the economic opportunity that the Galician economy awaits to undertake the miracle of the resurrection. Hence the constant calls to Rome to ask that the festival be extended at least until the summer of the year 22. Institutional messages have the veneer of despair. For example, the first sentence that one reads if one opens the Tourism website of the Xunta de Galicia: “After a year like 2020 we all need a Holy Year”. The requests have been heard.

Nothing is clear about the way in which Galicia will handle its call so that pilgrims and tourists from all over the world decide to return to Santiago. The Xunta has launched a campaign in which it affects the “safe” nature of the visits. Such is their commitment that the Government of Feijóo has contracted an insurance that covers the medical treatment and travel of any visitor who could be infected with COVID-19 during their visit to Compostela. It is enough to accredit an overnight stay in a hotel to be able to benefit from this protection. After giving up the effort to save Christmas, the Feijóo Government is now entrusted with the task of saving the Xacobeo. The Pope’s response opens the door to hope in that goal.

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