The Pilgrimage in the Great Jubilee
Pilgrimage of Israel
Pilgrimage of Christ
Pilgrimage of the Church
Pilgrimage towards the Third Millennium
Pilgrimage of humankind
Pilgrimage of the Christian today
1.- “We are strangers before you, pilgrims only as were all our
The words King David pronounced before the Lord sketch the profile not only of
the biblical person but of every human creature. In fact, the “way” is a
symbol of existence which is expressed in a wide range of actions like leaving
and coming back, entrance and exit, descent and ascent, walking and resting.
Since the very first moment of their appearance on the stage of the world, human
beings have always walked in search of new goals, investigating earthly horizons
and tending towards the infinite. They navigated rivers and seas, climbed sacred
mountains on whose summit the earth ideally meets the sky. They walked through
time marking it with sacred dates. They considered birth as an entrance into the
world and death as an exit to enter the womb of the earth or to be assumed into
the divine regions.
2.- Pilgrimages, a sign of the condition of the disciples of Christ in
, have always held an important place in the life of Christians.
In the course of history, Christians have always walked to celebrate
their faith in places that indicate a memory of the Lord or in sites
representing important moments in the history of the Church. They have come to
shrines honoring the Mother of God and to those that keep the example of the
saints alive. Their pilgrimage was a process of conversion, a yearning for
intimacy with God and a trusting plea for their material needs. For the Church,
pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace.
In contemporary society, which is characterized by intense mobility,
pilgrimages are experiencing a new impetus. To offer a suitable response to this
reality, the pastoral care of pilgrimages must be able to avail of a clear
theological foundation that explains it and develops a solid and permanent praxis
in the context of general pastoral care. It is necessary to keep in mind, first
of all, that evangelization is the ultimate reason for which the Church proposes
and encourages pilgrimages, such that they are transformed into an experience of
deep and mature faith.
3.- Through the reflections in this document, it is hoped to offer an aid
to all pilgrims and people in charge of the pastoral care of pilgrimages, so
that in the light of the Word of God and of the age-old tradition of the Church,
everyone may share more fully in the spiritual wealth found in the experience of
I. THE PILGRIMAGE OF
4.- Since the beginning, according to the teachings of the Holy
Scriptures, and later on, all through the millennia, it is possible to identify
an adamic pilgrimage: it starts with
coming forth from the hands of the Creator, from the entry into the world of
creation and from the subsequent wandering without aim, far from the garden of
The pilgrimage of Adam - from the call to walk with God, to his disobedience and
to the hope for salvation - reveals the full freedom with which he was gifted by
the Creator. At the same time, it discloses the divine commitment to walk beside
him and watch over his steps.
At first sight, Adam’s pilgrimage seems to be a deviation from the way
towards the goal of the holy place, the garden of Eden. But even this route can
be transformed into a path of conversion and of return. Wandering Cain is
watched over by the loving presence of God who follows and protects him.
“You have noted my agitation - sings Psalm 56,8 - now collect my tears in your
wineskin. Should this not be ‘in your book’?” Pursuing the way of
abandonment of the prodigal son in sin is the father who is prodigal of love. It
is through this divine attraction that for every person, every wrong way can be
transformed into an itinerary of return and embrace.
Thus, there is a universal history of pilgrimages that includes a dark stage,
through “the roads of darkness”,
the crooked paths. But it also includes
return and conversion through the path of life,
of justice and peace,
of truth and fidelity,
of perfection and integrity.
5.- The abrahamic pilgrimage,
instead, is the paradigm of the history of salvation itself in conformity with
which the faithful live. The language used in describing it (“leave your
country”), the steps in Abraham’s itinerary and the relations he experienced
affirm that his pilgrimage was already an exodus of salvation, an ideal
anticipation of the exodus of the whole nation. By leaving his country, his
family and his father’s house,
Abraham goes with trust and hope towards the horizon that the Lord indicated, as
the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us: “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the
call to set out for a country that was
the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he
set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as
a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange
country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They
lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and
built by God (...) All these died in faith, ... recognizing that they were only strangers
and nomads on earth”.
It is for a good reason that the Patriarch later defined himself “a stranger and a
even in the promised land and like him were also to be his sons Ishmael
and Jacob, refugee in Paddan-aram
and in Egypt.
It was from the land of the pharaohs that the great exodic
pilgrimage would ensue. The various stages - which included the departure,
wandering in the desert, the trial, temptations, sin, entering the promised land
- have become the exemplary model of the history of salvation
itself. This includes not only the gifts of freedom, of Revelation in Sinai and
of divine communion, expressed in the Passover (“passage”) and in the
offering of the manna, water and the quails, but also infidelity, idolatry, the
temptation to go back to slavery.
Exodus acquires a permanent value. It is a “memorial” that is always
vital and comes up again even upon the return from the Babylonian exile. This is
sung by the Second Isaiah as a new exodus,
that is commemorated each time Israel celebrates the Feast of the Passover and
is transformed into an eschatological representation in the book of Wisdom.
The final aim is in fact the promised land of full communion with God in a
The Lord himself is a pilgrim with his people: “Yahweh your God (...)
has watched over your journeying through this vast wilderness. Yahweh your God
has been with you these forty years and you have never been in want”.
He “preserved us all along the way we traveled”.
He, in fact, remembers with nostalgia “affection of your youth, the love of
your bridal days: you followed me through the wilderness, through a land unsown”.
Because of this radical characteristic as a pilgrim, the biblical people is not
to “molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land
of Egypt ”; rather, he is to “love
the stranger (...), for you were once strangers in Egypt”.
7.- Thus, whoever prays presents himself before God as “your guest
(...), a nomad”.
Precisely by praying, the Psalms, which were written across the millenary period
of the history of Israel, attest to the historical and theological awareness of
the itinerancy of the community and of the individual. And it is exactly through
the devotional pilgrimage to Zion that
being strangers even in one’s own land
is transformed into a sign of hope. The “ascent”, which, in the three great
solemnities of the Feast of the Passover, Feast of Weeks and Feast of Tabernacles
leads Israel amidst hymns of joy (the “Song of Ascents”)
towards Mt. Zion, becomes an experience of stability, trust and renewed
commitment to live in the fear of God
and in justice. Founded on the rock of the temple of Jerusalem, symbol of the
Lord who is a “rock” that does not crumble,
the tribes of Israel praise the name of the Lord.
They enter into communion with Him in worship, living in the tents of his
sanctuary and dwelling on his holy mountain, finding an indestructible salvation and a fullness of life
Therefore, “happy those who live in your house and can praise you all day
long; and happy the pilgrims inspired by you with courage to make the Ascents!”.
“Up! Let us go up to Zion, to Yahweh our God!”
8.- To the people of God, victim of discouragement, burdened by
infidelity, the prophets also indicate a Messianic
pilgrimage of redemption, which is also open to the escathological horizon
in which all peoples of the earth will stream towards Zion, location of the
divine Word, of peace and of hope
Living again the experience of the exodus, the people of God must let the Spirit
remove its heart of stone and give it one of flesh.
In its life’s itinerary, it must express justice
and faithful love
and rise up as a light for all peoples,
up to the day when the Lord God will offer on the holy mountain a banquet for
all peoples. On the way towards the
fulfillment of the messianic promise, already at this very moment, all are
called to communion gratuitously
and in God’s mercy. (top)
9.- Jesus Christ enters the scene of history as “the Way, the Truth and
and since the very beginning, he includes himself in the journey of humankind
and of his people, uniting himself in some way with each man.
In fact, he descended from being “with God” to become “flesh”
and to walk along the paths of the human person. In the Incarnation, it is
“God who comes in Person to speak to man of himself and to show him the path
by which he may be reached”.
While still a baby, Jesus is a pilgrim at the temple of Zion to be
presented to the Lord;
as a boy, with Mary and Joseph, he goes to his Father’s house.
His public ministry which takes place along the roads of his country, slowly
takes the form of a pilgrimage towards Jerusalem which is portrayed, especially
by Luke, as a long journey whose destination is not only the cross, but also the
glory of Easter and the Ascension.
His Transfiguration reveals to Moses, to Elijah and to the apostles his
impending Paschal “exodus”: “they were speaking of his passing which he
was to accomplish in Jerusalem”.
The other evangelists, too, know this exemplary itinerary, along which the
disciple must walk: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him
renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”, and Luke specifies
For Mark, the route to the cross of Golgotha is constantly marked by verbs and
words of movement and by the symbol of the “way”.
10.- But Jesus’ road does not end on the hill called Golgotha. The
earthly pilgrimage of Christ crosses the boundary of death, into the infinite
and in the mystery of God, beyond death. On the mount of the Ascension, the
final step of his pilgrimage takes place. As he promises to come back,
the risen Lord rises to Heaven and goes to his Father’s house to prepare a
place for us, so that where he is, we may be with him, too.
In fact, this is how He summarizes his mission: “I came from the Father and
have come into the world and now I leave the world to go to the Father. (...)
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they
may always see the glory you have given me”.
The Christian community, animated by the Spirit of Pentecost, goes out
into the streets of the world, and is immersed in the various nations of the
It goes from Jerusalem up to Rome, along the streets of the empire which the
apostles and the heralds of the Gospel walk through. Beside them walks Christ
who, as with the disciples of Emmaus, explains the Scriptures to them and breaks
the Eucharistic bread.
Along their footsteps set out the peoples of the earth. Spiritually following
the itinerary of the Magi,
they fulfill the words of Christ: “Many will come from east and to take their
places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven”
11.- The final destination of this pilgrimage along the roads of the
world, however, is not written on the map of the earth. It is beyond our horizon,
as it was for Christ who walked with the people to bring them to the fullness of
communion with God. It is significant to observe that the “way” of the Lord
is the road that he walked through and along which he now walks with us. In fact,
the Acts of the Apostles describes the Christian life as “the way”
par excellence. Therefore, after
having gone to teach all nations accompanied by the presence of Christ who is
with us to the end of time,
after having been “guided by the Spirit”
in justice and love, the Christian takes as his port of arrival the heavenly
Jerusalem sung in the Apocalypse. This way/life is filled with a yearning, an
ardent hope in the expectation of the coming of the Lord.
Our pilgrimage, therefore, has a transcendent end, knowing that we are “aliens
or foreign visitors”
here on earth, but are destined to be “citizens like all the saints, and part
of God’s household”.
Like Jesus who was killed outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem, we
too must go “outside the camp, and share his degradation. For there is no
eternal city for us in this life but we look for one in the life to come”.
There God will dwell with us, in that place “there will be no more death, and
no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone”.
III. THE PILGRIMAGE OF THE
12.- In communion with her Lord, the Church also, a messianic people, is
going forward towards a future and abiding city.
It transcends time and boundaries, and completely tends towards that Kingdom
whose presence is already operating in all the lands of the earth. These lands
have receive the seed of the word of Christ
and have been watered by the blood of martyrs, witnesses of the Gospel. As Paul
and the apostles did, the missionaries of Christ crossed the consular and
imperial roads, the caravan tracks, the maritime routes, the cities and ports of
the Mediterranean. Very soon, in the East and in the West, they had to face
various cultures and religious traditions and express themselves no longer just
in Hebrew and Aramaic, but also in Greek and Latin and later, in a multiplicity
of tongues, some of which had already been previously announced in the scene of
Pentecost: Arabic, Syriac,
Ethiopian, Persian, Armenian, Gothic, Slavic, Hindi, Chinese.
The steps in this pilgrimage of the messengers of the divine word
branched out from Asia minor to Italy, from Africa to Spain and Gaul and, later
on, from Germany to Britain, from the Slavic countries up to India and China. In
modern times, they went on towards new countries and new peoples in America,
Africa and Oceania, thus delineating “the journey of Christ down the centuries”
13.- In the IV and V centuries, later on, various experiences of monastic
life in the Church began. “Ascetic migration” and “spiritual exodus”
represent two of its fundamental and inspiring forms. In this regard, some
biblical figures assume a paradigmatic role in monastic and patristic literature.
The reference to Abraham is linked with the theme of xeniteia
(the experience of the stranger: the awareness of one who is a guest, migrant),
which, among other things, constitutes the third step of the spiritual Ladder
of St. John Climacus. The figure of Moses, who guides the exodus from slavery in
Egypt to the Promised Land, becomes a characteristic theme of ancient Christian
literature, thanks especially to the Life
of Moses of Gregory of Nyssa. Finally, Elijah, who climbs the Carmel and Mt.
Horeb, incarnates the themes of the flight into the desert and the encounter
with God. Ambrose, for example, is fascinated by the Prophet Elijah and
considers the ascetic ideal of the fuga
saeculi realized in him.
The concept of Christian life as a pilgrimage, the search for divine
intimacy, also by means of a detachment from the tumult of things and events,
the veneration of holy places persuaded St. Jerome and the disciples Paula and
Eustochium to leave Rome and settle in the land of Christ. Thus, in the grotto
of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a monastery was founded. This formed part of a
series of numerous hermitages, lauras, cenobia in the Holy Land, but which were
also spread in other regions, especially in the Egyptian Tebaide, in Syria, in
Cappadocia. Following this line, pilgrimages in the desert or towards a holy
place became the symbol of another pilgrimage, the interior one, as St.
Augustine called to mind: “Go back into yourself: the truth lives in the
person’s heart.” Yet, do not remain within yourself, but “go beyond your
because you are not God: he is deeper and greater than you. The pilgrimage of
the soul which has already been evoked by Platonic tradition, now acquires a new
dimension. In its yearning for the infinity of God, the Father of the Church
himself defines and represents it as follows: “One searches God to find him
with more sweetness, one finds him to search him with greater ardor”.
The concept that “the holy place is the pure soul”
also becomes a constant call for the practice of pilgrimages to holy places to
be a sign of progress in personal holiness. The Fathers of the Church thus
render “physical” pilgrimages relative, in an effort to overcome every
exaggeration and misunderstanding. Gregory of Nyssa, in particular, furnishes
the fundamental principle of a correct evaluation of pilgrimages. Although he
had devoutly visited the Holy Land, he affirms that the true journey to be
experienced is the one that leads the faithful from the physical reality to the
spiritual one, from corporeal life to life in the Lord, and not the trip from
Cappadocia to Palestine.
Even St. Jerome confirms the same principle. In Lettera 58, he observes that Anthony and the monks did not visit
Jerusalem, and yet the gates of Heaven were wide open for them just the same.
And he affirms that for Christians, the motive for praise is not the fact that
they have been to the Holy Land, but rather because they have lived holy lives
In this interior itinerary from light to light,
along the trail of Christ’s call to be “perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect”,
a profile of pilgrimages is formed, one which is particularly dear to the
spiritual Byzantine tradition: it is the “ecstatic” aspect that will later
on develop based on the mystical doctrine of Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus
the Confessor and John Damascene.
The divinization of the human person is the great aim of the long journey
of the spirit that places the believer in the very heart of God, thus fulfilling
the words of the Apostle: “I have been crucified with Christ and I live now
not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me”,
therefore “life... is Christ”.
14.- In the IV century, when persecution by the Roman empire was over,
the sites of martyrdom were opened for public veneration and the intense flow of
pilgrimages started. This is also testified by documentary records, like the
travel diaries of the pilgrims themselves, especially in the Holy Land. Among
them stands out the witness of Aetheria, at the beginning of the V century.
But concrete pilgrimages that walk through the streets of the world
spread out in new branches. While the Arabic conquest of Jerusalem in 638 made
the visit to Christian memorials in the Holy Land more difficult, new
itineraries in the West were opened. Rome, the site of the martyrdom of Peter
and Paul and the seat of ecclesial communion around the successor of Peter,
became a fundamental destination. Thus were born the numerous “Vie Romee” ad Petri sedem, among which stands out Via Francigena which crosses
the whole of Europe to point at the new holy city. But another goal was the tomb
of St. James in Compostella. There were also the Marian shrines of the Holy
House of Loreto, Jasna Gora in Czestochowa; visits to the great medieval
monasteries, fortresses of the spirit and of culture; the places that incarnate
the memory of great saints, like Tours, Canterbury or Padua. Through them a
network, which “promoted mutual understanding among such different peoples and
nations”, was formed in Europe.
Although with some exaggerations, this great phenomenon, which involved
the common masses that were animated by simple and profound convictions,
nourished the spirituality, increased the faith, stimulated the charity and
animated the mission of the Church. The “palmer”, the “pilgrim to Rome”,
the “pilgrims” with their specific attires almost constituted their own
separate “ordo”, that reminded the world of the pilgrim nature of the
Christian community, that tends towards a meeting with God and communion with
A special form was attributed to pilgrimages with the advent of the
Crusades between the XI and the XIII centuries. In them, the ancient religious
ideal of going on pilgrimage towards the holy places of the Sacred Scriptures
was mixed with the new instances and ideas typical of that historical period,
that is, the formation of the class of knights, with its social and political
tensions, the reawakening of commercial stimuli and cultural revolts in the East,
the presence of Islam in the Holy Land.
The conflict of power and interest often prevailed over the spiritual and
missionary ideal. This attributed particular characteristics to the various
Crusades, while the Churches of the East and of the West stood on the wall of division. This also influenced the practice of pilgrimages
which were somehow ambiguous, as described well by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He
was an ardent preacher of the second Crusade but he did not hesitate to honor
the spiritual Jerusalem present in Christian monasteries as the ideal goal of
the pilgrim: “Clairvaux is this Jerusalem united to the heavenly Jerusalem by
its profound and radical piety, by its life’s conformity, by some spiritual
A medieval hymn, which is still present in the liturgy, clearly exalted the
heavenly Jerusalem which was built on earth through the consecration of a church:
“Jerusalem blessed city,/ called image of peace,/ built in the heavens/ out of
15.- At this point St. Francis appeared on the horizon. Through his
friars, he would be present in the Holy Land through the centuries, as custodian
of the holy places for Christianity - in a cohabitation which is not always easy
with other Oriental ecclesial communities - and as a support for pilgrims.
Sometime around 1300, a Societas
Peregrinantium pro Christo was established. It considered pilgrimages also
as a missionary work. But just at that time, in 1300, the Jubilee was proclaimed
in Rome. It was to transform the eternal city into a Jerusalem towards which
multitudes of pilgrims would be directed, as what later on took place in the
successive long series of Holy Years. The cultural and religious unity of
medieval Western Europe was also nourished through these spiritual experiences.
Slowly, however, there was a movement towards new and more complex models that
also involved the nature of pilgrimages.
16.- The Copernican revolution caused an evolution in the condition of
pilgrim people in an immobile world, making them partakers of a universe that is
in perennial movement. The discovery of the New World established the foundation
needed to overcome the eurocentric vision, by means of the appearance of
different cultures and the extraordinary movement of people and groups. The
Christianity of the West lost its unity centered in Rome, and confessional
divisions made pilgrimages more difficult, at times contested “as an occasion of sin and of despise of the commandments of God... It
happens, in fact, that a persons goes on pilgrimage to Rome and spends fifty and
a hundred florins and even more and leaves wife and children and maybe a
neighbor at home at grips with misery”.
With the disintegration of the classical image of the universe, the pilgrim felt
less and less like being a traveler in the common house of the world, now
subdivided into States and national Churches. Thus, nearer and alternative goals
came up, like the Holy Mounts and local Marian shrines.
17.- Yet, in spite of a somehow static vision that pervaded the Christian
community in the XVIII and the XIX century, pilgrimages continued in the life of
the Christian community. In some places, as in Latin America and in the
Philippines, they sustained the faith of generations of believers; in other
places, a new spirituality came up, with new centers of faith founded on the
roots of Marian apparitions and popular devotions. From Guadalupe to Lourdes,
from Aparecida to Fatima, from the Santo Niño of Cebu to St. Joseph of
Montreal, there is a multiplication of witness to the vitality of pilgrimages
and the movement of conversion that they bring about. Meanwhile, the renewed
awareness of being the traveling people of God became the most expressive image
of the Church assembled in the II
Vatican Council. (top)
IV. PILGRIMAGE TOWARDS
THE THIRD MILLENNIUM
18.- The II Vatican Council was “a providential event” destined to
constitute an “immediate preparation for the Jubilee of the Second Millennium”.
That ecclesial gathering - from the time it was convoked, with the converging of
the pastors of the local Churches in Rome, up to its conclusion with an
extraordinary Jubilee that was to be celebrated in each single diocese - was
celebrated in the symbolic frame of a great and choral pilgrimage of the whole
ecclesial community. This aspect was made explicit by some emblematic gestures,
like those of the two pilgrim Popes, John XXIII to Loreto during the first years
of the Council (1962) and Paul VI in the Holy Land, at the height of the
Conciliar gathering (1964). To
these two purely spiritual signs were later on added the successive papal
pilgrimages along the ways of the world to proclaim the Gospel, its truth and
its justice, starting from those of Pope Paul VI to the United Nations and to
19.- The very language of the Council symbolized the Church - in its
experience as a spiritual and missionary itinerary - a travel companion at the
side of the whole humankind. It was
in fact a matter of asking “how we ought to renew ourselves, so that we may be
found increasingly faithful to the gospel of Christ”.
The “pilgrim” Church of God thus became a dominant profile from the very
beginning of the conciliar celebration.
The Church was “a signal raised amidst peoples (Is 5,26) to offer to everyone
the direction of his march towards the truth and the life”
. The meeting with the nations, which was symbolically manifested by the visit
of Pope Paul VI at the UN, was defined as the “epilogue of a laborious
pilgrimage”. The Council itself
resulted as a “spiritual ascension”, while the Council Fathers greeted the
men and women of thought as “pilgrims en route to the light”.
The aforementioned pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land was presented by
the Pontiff himself in the light of the spirituality of the peregrinatio
in its fundamental components. Through visits to the holy places, it intended to
exalt the central mysteries of salvation, the Incarnation and the Redemption; it
wanted to be a sign of prayer, penance and renewal; it aimed to fulfill the
triple goal of offering to Christ his Church, of promoting unity among
Christians, and of imploring divine mercy for peace among men.
It was the Council itself, in its Constitutions, that presented the whole
Church as “present in this world and yet not at home in it”.
Her pilgrim nature, mentioned repeatedly,
reveals a trinitarian aspect: its source is in the mission of Christ sent by the
Father; for this reason, we, too,
go forth from him, live through him and our journey leads us toward him, and the Holy Spirit is
the guide of our way which is to follow the footsteps of Christ.
Eucharist and Easter, which constitute the heart of the liturgy,
by their very nature, point back to the exodus of Israel and to the banquet of
pilgrimage and of alliance that it inaugurates
21.- The pilgrim Church spontaneously becomes missionary.
The command of the Risen Christ: “Go..., make disciples of all the nations”
places its stress precisely on “go”, an indispensable method of
evangelization open to the world. Viaticum and treasure in this itinerary are
the Word of God
and the Eucharist.
Sketching a passionate synthesis of the march of humankind with its
conquests and its going astray, the Council presents
the Church as a travel companion of the human family, that indicates a
transcendent goal, beyond earthly history.
Thus, a fruitful harmony between pilgrimages and commitment in history ensues
and even the world is called to offer its contribution to the Church itself in a
lively and intense dialogue.
22.- From the Conciliar event onwards, the Church lives its pilgrim
experience not only in its renewal, in its missionary proclamation, in its
commitment for peace, but also through numerous witnesses of the Magisterium of
the Church, particularly on the occasion of the jubilee years 1975, 1983 and
The Holy Father Pope John Paul II became a pilgrim in the world. He is the
principal evangelizer in these last two decades. Through his apostolic
itinerancy and his magisterium, he has guided and solicited the whole Church to
prepare itself for the third millennium, which is already close at hand. The
papal pastoral trips are “stations of a pilgrimage in the local Churches..., a
pilgrimage of peace and solidarity”.
23.- A fundamental goal of the present historical pilgrimage of the
Church is the Jubilee of the Year 2000 towards which the faithful are walking
beneath the vault of the Trinity. This itinerary should not be spatial but
rather interior and vital, in the re-conquest of the great values of the
biblical jubilee year. With the sounding of the horn marking this date in Israel, slaves became
free again, debts were condoned such that everyone would find again personal
dignity and social solidarity, the earth spontaneously offered its gifts to
everyone, reminding us that at its origin is the Creator who “water the
uplands until the ground has had all that your heavens have to offer”.
Thus, a more fraternal community, similar to that of Jerusalem, must be born:
“The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold
their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves
according to what each one needed”.
“Let there be no poor among you... Is there a poor man among you, one of your
brothers...? Do not harden your heart or close your hand against that poor
brother of yours”. (top)
V. THE PILGRIMAGE OF
24.- The pilgrimage which started from Abraham and is extended throughout
the centuries is a sign of a vaster and universal movement of humankind. The
human person, in fact, appears in his secular history as homo viator, a traveler thirsty for new horizons, hungry for justice
and peace, searching for truth, longing for love, open to the absolute and the
infinite. Scientific research, economic and social development, the continuous
appearance of tension, migration that goes though our planet, the very misery of
evil and other enigmas that fill humankind’s being constantly interrogate him,
thereby setting him on trails laid out by religions and cultures.
Even in our days, humankind, on one hand, seems to be going towards
positive goals of different natures:
worldwide integration in global systems, but at the same time, sensitivity for
pluralism and respect for the different historical and national identities,
scientific and technical progress, inter-religious dialogue, communications that
are diffused in the areopagus of the whole world through instruments that are
more and more effective and immediate. On the other hand, however, in each one
of these ways, ancient and invariable obstacles appear in new forms and ways:
the idols of economic exploitation, abuse of one’s political position,
scientific arrogance, religious fanaticism.
The light of the Gospel guides Christians to the discovery, in these
manifestations of contemporary civilization, of new “areopagi” wherein to
proclaim salvation and discover the signs of longing that lead hearts to the
house of the Father.
does not seem strange that in the whirlpool of this constant change, humankind
also experiences fatigue and wishes for a place, which may be a shrine, where he
could rest, a space of freedom that makes dialogue possible - with himself, with
others and with God. The Christian’s pilgrimage accompanies this search of
humankind and offers him the security of a goal, the presence of the Lord “for
he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue”.
25.- Some “universal pilgrimages” assume a particular significance.
We are thinking, first of all, of the vast
movement of groups, of masses, at times of
whole peoples, who face enormous sacrifices and risks to flee from hunger,
wars, environmental catastrophe, and to look for security and well-being for
themselves and for their loved ones. No one should remain an inactive spectator
before these immense flows that pervade humankind, almost like currents that
expand on the face of the earth. No one should feel foreign to the injustice
that is often at its roots, to the personal and collective drama, but also to
the hopes that bloom for a different future and a prospect of dialogue and a
peaceful multiracial coexistence. The Christian, in particular, must become the
good Samaritan on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, ready to help and
accompany his brother to an inn of fraternal charity and a life together in
solidarity. We may be led to this “spirituality of the way” by knowing,
listening to and sharing the experience of that particular “people of the
road” who are the nomads, the gypsies, the “children of the wind”.
26.- Those who set out towards various destinations for reasons of tourism,
scientific exploration or trade are
also pilgrims of the world. These are complex phenomena which are often sources
of harmful consequences because of their enormous dimensions. No one can ignore
the fact that they are often a cause of injustice, of the exploitation of
persons, of the erosion of cultures or of the devastation of nature. In spite of
this, by their nature, they preserve the values of research, progress and the
promotion of mutual understanding among peoples, which deserve to be promoted.
It is indispensable to make it possible for those who are part of these
sectors to preserve their own spirituality and interior exigencies. It is also
necessary for tourism and commercial agents not to be dominated only by economic
interests but also to be aware of their human and social functions.
27.- Connected with the preceding point, and characteristic of our days,
is a particular form of pilgrimage of the human mind, the informatic or virtual
pilgrimage which is diffused along the ways of telecommunications. These routes,
with all the risks, deformations and deviations that they involve, can be a
means of proclaiming faith and love, positive messages, fruitful and efficacious
contacts. It is therefore important to set out along these roads avoiding the
dispersion and destruction of true communication against the “background noise”
of a Babel-like myriad of information.
28.- There are also great “lay pilgrims”, those who embark on cultural and sport itineraries.
Great artistic demonstrations, especially musical ones, that witness the
gathering of the youth particularly, the flow of visitors in museums that are
often transformed into oasis of contemplation, Olympics and other forms of
sports assembly are phenomena that cannot be ignored, also because they include
spiritual values that must be protected beyond the extrinsic tension, leveling
and conditioning of a commercial nature.
29.- There are experiences of pilgrimages that are more distinctly
Christian. Not only priests, but also whole families and many young people
travel or accept to be sent to lands far from their own to collaborate with missionaries, both through their professional work, through witness
and through the explicit proclamation of the Gospel. It is a form of being
pilgrims that is continually increasing, as a gift of the Spirit. They use their
vacation or holidays; or spend entire years of their life.
Emblematic images of these spatial, but above all spiritual, movements of our times are the great ecumenical gatherings in which prayer for the gift of unity gathers
Christians together in a common journey. Equally important are the
inter-religious meetings that witness the roving assembly of men and women of
all faiths towards a common goal of hope and of love, as what happened in the
world prayer of the religions for peace, convoked in Assisi in 1986.
30.- A true and real network of itineraries is therefore extending
throughout our planet. Some are religious in the most direct sense of the term.
Their goals are cities and shrines, monasteries and historical centers. In other
cases, the search for spiritual values is manifested in going towards natural
sites of rare beauty, islands or deserts, summits or depths of marine abysses.
This complex geography of the movement of humankind contains in itself the germ
of a radical desire for a transcendent horizon of truth, justice and peace; it
gives witness to a restlessness which has for its port the infinity of God,
where people may refresh themselves from their anguish.
The march of humankind, therefore, notwithstanding its tensions and
contradictions, participates in the inevitable pilgrimage towards the Kingdom of
God, which the Church is committed to announce and fulfill with courage, loyalty
and perseverance, being called by his Lord to be salt, leaven, lamp and city on
the mountaintop. Only in this way would open paths in which “love and loyalty
now meet, righteousness and peace now embrace”.
In this itinerary, the Church becomes a pilgrim with all men and women
who search with a sincere heart for truth, justice, peace; and even with those
who wander elsewhere because - as Paul, citing Isaiah, recalls - God affirmed: “I have been found by those who did not seek
me, and have revealed myself to those who did not consult me”.
31.- All peoples and all individuals can therefore direct themselves to
this aim of the Kingdom. They may also express their adhesion by means of the
explicit and symbolic gesture of a pilgrimage to the various “holy cities”
on earth, that is, to the places of the spirit where the message of
transcendence and brotherhood resound strongest. Among these cities should also
be included those places desecrated by people’s sin and later on, almost out
of an instinct of reparation, consecrated by pilgrimages. Let us think for instance of Auschwitz, emblematic place of torture of the
Hebraic people in Europe, the Shoà,
or of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, land devastated by the horror of atomic war.
But, as previously stated, two cities acquire the value of a sign, not
only for Christians but for everyone: Rome, symbol of the universal mission of
the Church; and Jerusalem, holy place and venerated by all those who follow the
way of the Abrahamic religions, the city from which the Law and the oracle of
Yahweh will go out.
This indicates the final destination of the pilgrimage of the whole humankind,
that is, “the holy city... coming down from God out of heaven”.
We shall advance towards it in hope singing: “We are a people that is walking
/ and walking together we want to reach / a city that will never end, / without
pain or sadness, / city of eternity”.
Just as the Church appreciates the poverty of the Buddhist pilgrim monk,
the contemplative way of the Tao, the sacred itinerary of Hinduism in Benares,
the “pillar” of pilgrimage to the sources of his faith characteristic of the
Moslem, and every other itinerary towards the Absolute and towards his brothers,
She joins all those who, in a fervent and sincere way, dedicate themselves to
the service of the weak, the refugees, the exiles, the oppressed, and undertake
with them a “pilgrimage of brotherhood”.
This is the meaning of the Jubilee of mercy that appears at the horizon
of the third millennium, point of arrival for the creation of a human society
that is more just, in which the public debts of developing nations will be
condoned and a more equitable distribution of land will be accomplished, in the
spirit of the biblical prescription.
VI. THE PILGRIMAGE OF THE
32.- All Christians are
invited to join and take part in the great pilgrimage that Christ, the Church
and humankind have accomplished and must continue accomplishing in history. The
shrine towards which they must be directed is to become “the Tent of
Meeting”, as the Bible calls the tabernacle of the alliance.
There, in fact, a fundamental meeting takes place, one that reveals various
dimensions and is presented under numerous appearances. It is in this series of
aspects that we can delineate a pastoral care of pilgrimages.
Lived as a celebration of one’s own faith, for the Christian, a
pilgrimage is a manifestation of worship to be accomplished faithfully according
to tradition, with an intense religious sentiment and as a fulfillment of his
The very dynamics of pilgrimages clearly reveals some steps that pilgrims
take. They become a paradigm of the whole life of faith; departure reveals the decision of pilgrims to go forward up to the
destination and achieve the spiritual objectives of their baptismal vocation; walking
leads them to solidarity with their brothers and sisters and to the necessary
preparation for the meeting with the Lord; the visit
to the Shrine invites them to listen to the Word of God and to sacramental
celebration; the return, in the end,
reminds them of their mission in the world, as witnesses of salvation and
builders of peace. It is important that these steps in a pilgrimage, lived in
groups or individually, are marked by acts of worship, which would reveal their
authentic dimension, with the use of the texts recommended in liturgical books
for this purpose.
The aspects that each pilgrimage must necessarily include are to be
harmoniously designed with just respect for the traditions of each people and
adequately harmonized with the conditions of the pilgrims. It is the duty of the
Episcopal Conference of every country to lay out the pastoral directives that
are most appropriate to the various situations and institute the pastoral
structures necessary to realize them. In the diocesan pastoral care of
pilgrimages, a distinct role of Shrines is recognized. Yet, parishes and other
ecclesial groups must also be represented in these pastoral structures since
they are directly involved and are points of departure of the largest number of
Pastoral activity must make it such that through the peculiar
characteristics of each pilgrimage, the believer would essentially accomplish a
journey of faith.
Through an appropriate catechesis and an attentive accompaniment on the part of
the pastoral agents, the presentation of the fundamental aspects of Christian
pilgrimages opens new perspectives for its practice in the life of the Church.
33.- The aim, towards which the pilgrim’s itinerary is directed, is
first of all the tent of meeting with God.
Isaiah already mentioned these words of God: “My house will be called a
house of prayer for all the peoples”.
“At the end of the road, in which his ardent heart aspires to see God’s
countenance”, in the shrine which
fulfills the divine promise stating: “My eyes and my heart shall be always
the pilgrim meets the mystery of God and discovers his countenance of love and
mercy. In a particular way, this experience is accomplished in the Eucharistic
celebration of the Paschal mystery, in which Christ is “at the summit of the
revelation of the inscrutable mystery of God”;
there one contemplates God, who is always favorable to the grace in Mary, the
Mother of God, and He is magnified and
wonderful in all His saints.
In pilgrimages, people acknowledge that “from the very circumstances of
his origin, man is (...) invited to converse with God ”,
and therefore through this, he is helped to discover that the way he is offered,
to “remain in intimate union with God”, is Christ, the Word made flesh. The
itinerary of the Christian pilgrim must reveal this “essential point by which
Christianity differs from all the other religions”.
In their totality, pilgrimages must show “that for human beings, the Creator
is not an anonymous and remote power; He is the Father”,
and we are all his children, brothers and sisters in Christ the Lord. It is
necessary to direct pastoral commitment so that such a fundamental truth of the
may not be darkened by traditional customs or cultures, nor by new spiritual
movements and ways. Pastoral action, however, will also aim at a constant
inculturation of the evangelical message in every culture, of every people.
Finally, the efficacy of Shrines will be measured more and more according
to their capacity to respond to the growing need of a “silent and attentive contact with God and with themselves”
that people feel under the delirious rhythm of modern life. The route and the
destination of pilgrimages lead to the blossoming of the faith and to an
intensity of communion with God in prayer, by which ideally, what the prophet
Malachi announced is fulfilled: “From farthest east to farthest west my name
is honored among the nations and everywhere a sacrifice of incense is offered to
my name, and a pure offering too, since my name is honored among the nations,
says Yahweh Sabaoth”.
34.- Pilgrimages lead to the tent
of meeting with the Word of God. The fundamental experience of the pilgrim
must be that of listening because “the oracle of Yahweh (will go out) from
Thus, the primary commitment of the holy journey is that of evangelization which
is often ingrained in the holy places themselves.
The proclamation, reading and meditation of the Gospel must accompany the steps
of the pilgrim and the visit to the shrine itself, so that what the Psalmist
affirmed may be accomplished: “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light on my
Because of the circumstances that they inspire, the goals to which they
are directed, their nearness to daily joys and necessities, the moments of a
pilgrimage are a field that is already favorable to the reception of the Word of
God in the hearts; thus the Word becomes
the strength of the faith, the food of the soul, pure and perennial source of
The whole pastoral activity at the service of pilgrimages must
concentrate its efforts in bringing pilgrims close to the Word of God. In the
first place, arrangements should be made beforehand for a catechetical process
that is suitable to the pilgrim’s life of faith, an expression of his cultural
reality, through means of communication that are truly accessible and have been proved to be effective. On the other hand, while this catechetical
presentation is to take into account the events that are celebrated in the
places to be visited and their peculiar nature, it should not forget either the necessary hierarchy in the exposition of the truths of
or a moment within the liturgical itinerary in which the whole Church
35.- Pilgrimages also lead to the tent
of meeting with the Church, “assembly of those who are called together by
the Word of God to form the people of God. Being nourished by the Body of
Christ, they themselves form the Body of Christ”.
The experience of life in common with the pilgrim brothers and sisters also
becomes the occasion to rediscover the people of God walking towards the
Jerusalem of peace, in praise and in song, in one faith and in the unity of the
love of only one Body, that of Christ. The pilgrim must feel himself a member of
the one family of God, surrounded by many brothers and sisters in the faith,
under the guide of the “great Shepherd of the sheep”
who leads us “by paths of virtue for the sake of his name”
under the visible guide of pastors that he has invested with the mission to lead
When they are done by a parish community, by an ecclesial group, by a
diocesan assembly or by wider groupings, pilgrimages become a sign of ecclesial
In these cases, it is possible to be better aware of the fact that all
participants form part of the Church, according to their own vocation and
The presence of a spiritual animator has a particular significance. His
mission completely falls within the priestly ministry, by which priests
“gather God’s family together as a brotherhood of living unity, and lead it
through Christ and in the Spirit to God the Father”.
For the exercise of this ministry, they must have a specific catechetical
preparation, to faithfully and clearly transmit the Word of God, and an adequate
psychological preparation to be able to welcome and understand the diversity
among all pilgrims. It will also be greatly useful for them to know history and
art, to be in the position to introduce pilgrims into the catechetical wealth
that pours out from the works of art that are constant witnesses of ecclesial faith in Shrines.
In this ministry, on the other hand, priests are not in any way to forget
the specific function that belong to the laity in the living context of the
“Church communion”. Their active
participation in the liturgical
and catechetical life, their specific responsibility in the formation of the
and their capacity to represent the Church in the most various human needs
make them apt to collaborate - after an adequate and specific preparation - in
the religious animation of pilgrimages and assist their brothers and sisters
during their journey together.
The pastoral care of pilgrimages requires that there be a similar
spiritual accompaniment also for those who go on pilgrimage in small groups or
individually. In any case, the persons in charge of welcome in the Shrine are to
arrange beforehand the necessary means for the pilgrim to realize that his
journey forms part of the pilgrimage of faith of the whole Church.
The pilgrims’ meeting with the Church and their experience of being
part of the Body of Christ are to pass through a renewal of their baptismal
commitment. Pilgrimages somehow reproduce the journey of faith that one day led
them to the baptismal font,
and which is now expressed anew through their participation in the sacraments.
36.- The shrine, however, is also the tent
of meeting in reconciliation. There, in fact, the pilgrim’s conscience is
moved; there he confesses his sins, there he is forgiven and forgives, there he
becomes a new creature through the sacrament of reconciliation, there he
experiences divine mercy and grace. The pilgrim, therefore, repeats the
experience of the prodigal son in sin, who experiences the hardness of trials
and of penance, and also embraces the sacrifices of the trip, fasting,
sacrifice. But he also experiences the joy of the embrace of the Father, rich in
mercy, who leads him from death to life: “This son of mine was dead and has
come back to life; he was lost and is found”.
Shrines, therefore, must be places in which the sacrament of reconciliation is
celebrated intensely, shared, with a well-conducted liturgy, with available
ministers and time, with prayer and songs so that personal conversion may have
the divine seal and be lived ecclesially.
Pilgrimages that lead to the Shrine must be an itinerary of conversion
sustained by the firm hope of the infinite depth and power of the forgiveness
offered by God; a way of conversion that “marks out the most profound element
of the pilgrimage of every man and woman on earth in
37.- The goal of pilgrimages must be the tent
of the Eucharistic meeting with Christ. If the Bible is the book of pilgrims
par excellence, the Eucharist is the
bread that sustains them on their way, as it was for Elijah on his ascent to
Reconciliation with God and with our brothers and sisters terminates in the
Eucharistic celebration. It accompanies the various steps of pilgrimages, which
must reflect the exodic Paschal episode, but above all the pilgrimage of Christ
who celebrated his Pasch in Jerusalem, at the end of his long journey towards
the cross and glory. Therefore, according to general liturgical indications and
that of the individual Episcopal Conferences, “at shrines the means of
salvation are to be more abundantly made available to the faithful: by sedulous
proclamation of the word of God, by suitable encouragement of liturgical life,
especially by the celebration of the Eucharist and penance, and by the fostering
of approved forms of popular devotion”.
Particular pastoral attention is to be reserved to those pilgrims who,
because of their ordinary conditions of life, go to Shrines to celebrate special
occasions by listening to the Word of God and celebrating the Eucharist. In the joy of that event, may they discover the call to act in their
daily life as messengers and builders of the kingdom of God, of His justice and
38.- It is therefore easy to understand that pilgrimages may also be the
tent of meeting with charity. A charity that is first of all that of God who
loved us first by sending his Son into the world. This love is not manifested
only in Christ’s gift as a victim of expiation for our sins
but also in the miraculous signs that heal and console, as Christ himself did
during his earthly pilgrimage, and which are still repeated in the history of
“Since God has loved us so
much, we too should love one another”.
Charity should also be lived during the journey of the pilgrim, by helping the
most needy, by sharing food, time and hopes, aware that it is in this way that
new travel companions will be made. A praiseworthy expression of such a charity
is the tradition practiced in many places, whereby the offering, presented by
the faithful as an expression of their devotion, is considered as goods that can
be distributed among the poorest. Pastoral action should animate such gestures
with the help of a catechesis that is always respectful of the feelings of the
pilgrims and with initiatives that express the intentions of the offering. In
this sense, it is best to underline the work that is being done in some shrines
in favor of charitable institutions or projects for the assistance of
communities in developing countries.
Special charity is to be reserved to the sick who are on pilgrimage,
remembering the words of the Lord: “In so far as you did this to one of the
least of these brother of mind, you did it to me”.
Assistance to sick pilgrims is the most significant expression of the love that
must nourish the heart of the Christian traveling towards the shrine. Sick
pilgrims, above all, must be received with the warmest hospitality. It will
therefore be necessary that the structures of welcome, the services offered,
communications and transport should be prepared, equipped and managed with
dignity, care and love.
On their part, the sick should let the love of Christ shine in them, such
that they live their illness as an itinerary of grace and of gift of self. Their
pilgrimage to places in which the grace of God is manifested through particular
“signs” will help them become evangelizers among their companions in
suffering. Thus, from being “objects of compassion”, they become subjects of
commitment and of action, true “pilgrims of the Lord” along all the roads of
39.- Pilgrimages, however, also lead to the tent
of meeting with humankind. All the religions of the world, as previously
mentioned, have their own holy itineraries and their holy cities. In every place
of the earth, God himself becomes a
meeting with the pilgrim and proclaims a universal convocation to participate
fully in the joy of Abraham.
In particular, the three great monotheistic religions are called to find again
“the tent of meeting” in the faith so that they may witness and build
messianic justice and peace before all peoples, to redeem history.
Worthy of special attention on the part of pastoral care is the fact that
numerous Christian shrines are goals of pilgrimages of believers of other
religions, due to secular tradition and to recent immigration as well. This
solicits the pastoral action of the Church to respond with initiatives of
hospitality, dialogue, assistance and genuine fraternity.
The hospitality reserved to pilgrims will surely help them discover the profound
meaning of pilgrimages. For them, the shrine must be a place of that respect
that we must manifest first of all through the purity of our faith in Christ,
the one savior of the human being.
It should also be observed that, aside from holding big ecumenical
gatherings and inter-religious meetings, the Christian must be near to all those
who seek God with a sincere heart by walking through the ways of the spirit,
even by “feeling their way towards him” even if God “is not far from any
Their very pilgrimage, often done in foreign lands, leads to the knowledge of
different practices, customs and cultures. It must therefore be transformed into
an occasion of communion in solidarity with the values of other peoples,
brothers and sisters in the humanity that everyone shares and in the common
origin of the one Creator of all.
Pilgrimages are also moments of living together with people of different
ages and formation. It is necessary to travel together to be able to proceed
together in social and ecclesial life. The young go forward with their marches
and the World Youth Days; the elderly and the sick, at times together with the
young, towards more traditional shrines. In their multiple diversity, pilgrims
fulfill together what the Psalmist wished: “All kings on earth and nations,
princes, all rulers in the world, young men and girls, old people and children
too! Let them all praise the name of Yahweh, for his name and no other is
sublime, transcending earth and heaven in majesty”.
40.- Pilgrimages also have as their goal the
tent of personal meeting with God and with oneself. Lost in the multiplicity
of daily anxieties and realities, people need to discover themselves through
reflection, meditation, prayer, an examination of conscience, silence. In the
holy tent of the shrine, they must ask themselves how much “will remain of the
night” of his soul, as Isaiah expresses in his song of the watchman:
“Morning is coming, then night again. If you want to, why not ask, turn round,
The great questions on the meaning of existence, on life, on death, on the
ultimate destiny of the human person must resound in the heart of the pilgrim
such that the journey would not only be a movement of the body but also an
itinerary of the soul. In interior silence, God will reveal himself exactly as a
“sound of a gentle breeze”
that transforms the heart and existence. Only in this way will pilgrims not fall
back into distraction and superficiality on their return home, but will preserve
a spark of that light which they received in their soul and will feel the need
to repeat this experience of personal fullness in the future, “inspired ...
with courage to make the Ascents”
The pilgrim thus travels through the itinerary accompanied by the
liturgical prayer of the Church and the simplest devotional exercises, by
personal prayer and moments of silence, by the contemplation that pours forth
from the heart of the poorest, who lift their “eyes (...) on their master’s
41.- While persons are on pilgrimage, they also have the chance to enter
the tent of cosmic meeting with God.
Shrines are often located in places with an extraordinary panorama; they
manifest greatly fascinating artistic forms; they concentrate on themselves
ancient historical memories; they are expressions of popular and refined
culture. It is therefore necessary for pilgrimages not to exclude this dimension
of the spirit. Above all, it is to be understood that a greater inclination to
appreciate nature reveals a precious spiritual dimension of the modern person.
This contemplation could become the theme of moments of reflection and prayer,
so that the pilgrim may praise the Lord for the heavens that declare his glory,
and may feel called to be a minister of the world in holiness and justice.
It should also be noted that, in certain ways, every pilgrimage reveals
an aspect of religious tourism that must be planned not only for a cultural
enrichment of the person, but also towards a fullness of the spirit.
Contemplation of beauty is a source of spirituality. Therefore, “in shrines or
in places adjacent to them, votive offerings of popular art and devotion are to
be displayed and carefully safeguarded”.
Pilgrims must be shown these treasures, through guides or other materials, so
that through artistic beauty and the spontaneity of age-old witnesses of faith,
they may sing to God their joy and hope through art,
they may find serenity again in the contemplation of marvelous things and
“through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures (...), by analogy,
contemplate their author”.
Pastoral action must equally take into account all those who walk through
the ways of pilgrimages for other reasons, like culture or free time. The way
the different places and monuments are presented show their explicit relation
with the itinerary of the pilgrim, with the spiritual goal to which they lead
and with the experience of faith that originated from them and they still
animate. This information is to be offered to the organizers of these trips,
such that they may be accomplished in utmost respect and may truly contribute to
the cultural enrichment and spiritual progress of travelers.
42.- Finally, pilgrimages are very often the way to enter the tent of meeting with Mary, the Mother of the Lord. Mary, in which
the pilgrimage of the Word towards humankind converges with humankind’s
pilgrimage of faith
, is “the one who advanced on the pilgrimage of faith”,
thus becoming “star of evangelization”
for the journey of the whole Church. The great Marian shrines (like Lourdes,
Fatima or Loreto; Czestochowa, Altötting or Mariazell; Guadalupe, Aparecida or
Luján), and the small shrines, which popular devotion constructed in countless
numbers in thousands and thousands of localities, can be privileged places for a
meeting with her Son whom she gives us. Her womb was the first shrine, the tent
of meeting between divinity and humanity on which the Holy Spirit descended and
which “the power of the Most High [covered] with its shadow” .
Christians travel with Mary along the roads of love and join Elizabeth
who typifies the sisters and the brothers in the world with whom a bond of faith
and praise is to be established.
The Magnificat then becomes the song par
excellence, not only of the peregrinatio
Mariae but also of our pilgrimage in hope.
Christians travel with Mary along the roads of the world to ascend right up to
Calvary and be beside her like the beloved disciple, so that Christ may hand her
over to them as their Mother.
Christians travel with Mary along the roads of faith so as to reach the Cenacle
in the end and there, together with her, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
from her Risen Son..
Liturgy and Christian piety offer to pilgrims numerous examples of the
way by which they can turn to Mary as a pilgrimage companion. They are to refer
to these examples, first of all considering that the acts of piety regarding the
Virgin Mary must clearly express the trinitarian and Christological dimension,
intrinsically and essentially.
By cultivating a genuine Marian devotion,
pilgrims enrich their profound devotion to the Mother of God with new forms and
manifestations of their innermost sentiments. (top)
43.- Pilgrimages symbolize the experience of the homo
viator who sets out, as soon as he leaves the maternal womb, on his journey
through the time and space of his existence. This is the fundamental experience of Israel which is marching
towards the promised land of salvation and of full freedom; the experience of
Christ who rose to heaven from the land of Jerusalem, thus opening the way
towards the Father; the experience of the Church which moves on through history
towards the heavenly Jerusalem; the experience of the whole humankind which
tends towards hope and fullness. Every pilgrim should confess: “By the grace
of God, I am a human person and a Christian; by my actions, a great sinner; by
my condition as a pilgrim without a roof, of the lowliest species that goes
wandering from place to place. My possessions are a sack on my shoulders with a
bit of dry bread and a Holy Bible that I carry under my shirt. No other thing do
The Word of God and the Eucharist accompany us in this pilgrimage towards
the heavenly Jerusalem, of which shrines are a visible and living sign. When we
will reach it, the gates of the Kingdom will open, we will abandon the traveling
attire and the staff of the pilgrim and we shall enter our house definitively
“to stay with the Lord for ever”.
There he will be in our midst as “the one who serves”
and he will share our meal, side by side with us.
The Holy Father, John Paul II, on April 11, 1998, approved the
publication of the present document.
Città del Vaticano, 25 aprile 1998.
Giovanni Cardinale CHELI, Presidente
Arcivescovo Francesco GIOIA, Segretario
Cfr. II Vat. Ecum. Council. Dogm. Const. Lumen Gentium, 49.
Cfr. NATIONAL OFFICE OF THE ITALIAN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE FOR THE PASTORAL
CARE OF LEISURE, TOURISM AND SPORTS, Pastorale
del Pellegrinaggio, 1996, p.44.
Cfr. Pr 2, 15; 10, 9; 21, 8.
Cfr. Pr 2, 19; 5, 6; 6, 23; 15, 24.
Cfr. Pr 8, 20; 12, 28; Ba 3, 13; Is 59, 8.
Cfr. Ps 119, 30; Tb 1, 3.
Cfr. Gn 21, 9-21; 26, 12-18.
Dt 10, 19; cfr. 24, 17.
Ps 39, 12; cfr. 119, 19.
Cfr. Dt 32, 18: Ps 18, 2; 46, 2-8.
Jr 31, 6; cfr. Is 2, 5.
Cfr. Is 2, 2-4; 56, 6-8; 66, 18-23; Mi 4, 1-4; Zc 8, 20-23.
Cfr. Pope John Paul II, Encycl. Let. Redemptor Hominis,
Pope John Paul II, Apost. Let.
Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 6.
Cfr. Lk 9, 51; 24, 51.
Mt 16, 24; cfr. Mt 10, 38 and Lk 9, 23.
Cfr. Mk 8, 27.34; 9, 33-34; 10,
Cfr. Ac 2, 28; 9, 2; 16, 17; 18, 25-26; 19, 9.23; 22, 4; 24, 14.32.
Cfr. Ep 2, 19; 1 Pt 2, 11
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Dogm. Const. Lumen
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Apost. Let. Tertio
Millennio Adveniente, 25.
Cfr. St. AUGUSTINE, De vera
religione 39, 72: CCL 32, 234;
PL 34, 154.
S. AUGUSTINE, De Trinitate 15,
2, 2: CCL 50, 461; PL
ORIGEN, In Leviticum XIII,5: SCh
287, 220; PG 12, 551.
Cfr. ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, Lettera
2, 18: SCh 363, 122;
PG 46, 1013.
Cfr. ST. JEROME. Lettera 58,
2-3: CSEL 54, 529-532; PL
22, 580-581 .
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Discourse during a visit to Vienna (10 September
1983): AAS 76 (1984), p. 140.
ST. BERNARD, Letter to the Bishop
of Lincoln, Let. 64, 2: PL
“Urbs Ierusalem beata,/ dicta pacis vision,/ quae construitur in
coelis,/ vivis ex lapidibus”. Rom. Brev., Comm.
De Dedic. Eccl., Himnus ad Vesp.
M. LUTHER, To the Christian
Aristocracy of the German Nation (1520): WA 6, 437.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Apost. Let. Tertio
Millennio Adveniente, 18.
II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Message to
Cfr. POPE JOHN XXIII, Opening Speech to the II Vatican Council
(11-10-1962); POPE PAUL VI, Opening Speech at the second session of the II
Vatican Council (29-9-1963): AAS
55 (1963) p. 842.
POPE PAUL VI, Discourse at the Conclusion of the third session of the II
Vatican Council (21-11-1964): AAS 56 (1964) p. 1013.
POPE PAUL VI, Speech at the Assembly of the United Nations (4-10-1965): AAS 57 (1965) p. 878
II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Closing
Messages of the Council (8-12-1965).
Cfr. POPE PAUL VI, Discourse at the Conclusion of the second session of
the II Vatican Council (4-12-1963): AAS
56 (1964) p. 39.
II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Dogm. Const. Sacrosanctum
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Dogm. Const. Lumen Gentium, 7-9.
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Decr. Ad
Cfr.II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Dogm. Const. Sacrosanctum
Concilium, 7; 10.
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, , Decr. Ad
Gentes, 2; Dogm. Const. Lumen
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Dogm. Const Dei Verbum, 7.
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Past. Const. Gaudium et Spes, 38.
Cfr. Apostolic Exhortation Nobis
in animum of Pope Paul VI, 25-3-1974, on the increased needs of the
Church in the Holy Land; Apostolic Letter Apostolorum
limina of Pope Paul VI, 25-5-1974, for the proclamation of the Holy Year
1975; Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in
Domino of Pope Paul VI, 9-5-1975, on Christian joy of the Holy Year;
Apostolic Letter Aperite portas
Redemptori of Pope John Paul II, 6-1-1983, for the proclamation of the
Jubilee of 1983; Apostolic Letter Redemptionis
anno of Pope John Paul II, 20-4-1984, on Jerusalem, holy patrimony of
all believers, at the conclusion of the Jubilee of 1983; Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente of Pope John Paul II, 10-11-1994.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, General Audience, 9-4-1997, referring to the pastoral
trip in Sarajevo.
Cfr. S. AUGUSTINE, Confessions
I, 1: CCL 27, 1; PL 32, 661; XIII, 38, 53: CCL
27, 272ff.; PL 32, 868.
Rm 10, 20; cfr. Is 65, 1.
“Somos un pueblo que camina / y juntos caminando queremos alcanzar /
una ciudad que no se acaba / sin pena ni tristeza / ciudad de eternidad”
Cfr. Ex 27, 21; 29, 4.10-188.8.131.52.44.
Cfr. CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP, Orientations and suggestions for
the celebration of the Marian Year (3 April 1987), Notitiae 23 (1987) pp. 342-396.
Cfr. POPE JOHN PAUL II, Discourse to a group of North American Bishops
in visita ad limina (21 September 1993): AAS 86 (1994) p. 495.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Discourse to the participants in the I World Congress
of the Pastoral Care of Shrines and Pilgrimages (28 February 1992): Insegnamenti
di Giovanni Paolo II, XV,1 (1992) p. 490.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Enc. Let. Dives
in misericordia, 8.
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Dogm. Const. Lumen Gentium, 50.
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Past.. Const. Gaudium et Spes, 19.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Apost. Let. Tertio
Millennio Adveniente, 6.
POPE PAUL VI, Apost. Exhortation Evangelii
Cfr. The Catechism of the Catholic
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Letter for the
VII Centennial of Loreto (15 august 1993): Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XVI,2 (1993) p. 533.
Cfr. POPE JOHN PAUL II, Apost. Exhortation Catechesi tradendae,47.
Cfr. POPE JOHN PAUL II, Discourse to the French Diocesan Directors of Pilgrimages (17 October 1980): Insegnamenti
di Giovanni Paolo II, II,2 (1980) p. 894-897.
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Dogm. Const. Dei Verbum, 21.
Cfr.POPE PAUL VI, Apost. Exhortation Evangelii
Cfr. II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Dogm. Const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 102; Collectio
Missarum de beata Maria Virgine, Introductio, 6.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 777.
Cfr. POPE JOHN PAUL II, Discourse to the French bishops on the occasion
of the ad limina Visit (4 April 1992): AAS
85 (1993) p. 368.
II VAT. ECUM. COUNCIL, Decree Presbyterorum
Cfr. POPE JOHN PAUL II, Apost. Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis (4 April 1992), 71-72: AAS 84 (1992) pp 782-787.
Cfr. POPE JOHN PAUL II,Apost. Exhortation Christifidelis
Cfr. POPE JOHN PAUL II, Homily in the Basilica of Aparecida, Brazil (4
July 1980): Insegnamenti di Giovanni
Paolo II, III, 2 (1980) p. 99.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Encycl. Let. Dives
in misericordia, 13.
Code of Canon Law, can. 1234
Cfr. POPE PAUL VI, Apost. Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, c.V.
Cfr. POPE JOHN PAUL II, Encyc. Let. Redemptoris
of Canon Law, can. 1234 § 2.
Ws 13, 5; cfr. Rm 1, 19-20.
Cfr. POPE PAUL VI, Apost. Exhortation Marialis cultus, 37.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Encycl. Let. Redemptoris
POPE PAUL VI, Apost. Exhortation Evangelii
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Encycl. Let. Redemptoris
Cfr. Ac 1, 14; 2, 1-4.
Cfr. POPE PAUL VI, Apost. Exhortation Marialis cultus, 25.
Cfr. II Vat. Ecum. Council. Dogm. Const. Lumen Gentium, 67.
Anonymous Russian, A Pilgrim’s