Presided over by His Most Eminent Highness Fra’ Andrew Bertie, close to 250 Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta gathered in Santiago de Compostela from the 15th to the 17th of October to participate in the international pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle Saint James, culminating the events and activities which are traditionally undertaken by the Order during the Jacobean Holy Years.
The most notable events on the program for the pilgrimage were the religious ceremonies: the Gregorian Mass for the members of the Order on Saturday, October 16th, in the Cistercian Monastery of Santa María la Real de Oseira, officiated in an atmosphere of recollection and reflection by the Mitred Abbot, the Most Reverend Father Dom José Ignacio Méndez García, together with the Prelate and Conventual and Magistral Chaplains of the Order as well as the Secretary General of the Church in Galicia; and the following day, the Pontifical Mass, with its solemnity and splendour, in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, officiated by His Eminence the Most Reverend Archbishop Monsignor Julián Barrio.
During the Mass, in his moving offering to the Apostle, the Grand Master expressed his great satisfaction for having been able to visit this marvellous sanctuary for the third time and manifested the special joy which the members of the Order had experienced when kneeling before the Holy Sepulcher of the Apostle. He prayed for the Apostle’s intercession so that the Order may maintain the cohesion and enthusiasm needed to carry out its mission in the future as it has done in the past.
Following the Mass, the Grand Master visited the First Aid Station maintained by the Spanish Association in the Cloister of the Cathedral, which had been staffed throughout the summer months by shifts of volunteers from the Spanish Association and from other national and humanitarian associations of the Order: Belgium, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Uruguay. Approximately 1000 pilgrims were assisted at the Station from 1 July to 18 October.
Coinciding with the pilgrimage, the Instituto de Estudios Gallegos Padre Sarmiento, in collaboration with the Spanish Association of the Order of Malta, the Government of the Autonomous Community of Galicia, the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, and Xacobeo 2004 – Galicia (the office responsible for Jacobean Year Activities), celebrated the II Seminar of Studies on the Order of Malta its historic reality and its social projection, which on this occasion was focussed on the subject Hospitality and Knighthood along the Camino de Santiago.
The most important social event on the program was the dinner in honor of the Grand Master hosted by the pilgrims and attended by the President of the Government of the Autonomous Community of Galicia, H.E. Manuel Fraga Iribarne, and other distinguished guests. During the dinner, the Grand Master, on his own behalf and that of the Order of Malta, expressed his appreciation to President Fraga for all the courtesies which His Excellency personally and the Government of Galicia had extended to him and to the Order in general as a sovereign institution. In his response, President Fraga said that with this pilgrimage, you have given life once more to one of your first and most important vocations: for the past thousand years, your Order of Saint John of Jerusalem has stood forth especially in Galicia as the tireless defender of the pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago.
The Grand Master was accompanied on this pilgrimage by high charges of the Government of the Order and its Prelate, by several of its Ambassadors, the Grand Priors of Bohemia and of Naples and Sicily, the Presidents and/or high charges and members of 15 National Associations (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Republic of Malta, the Philippines, Portugal and the United States of America), in addition to the representation from Spain: the Regent and members of the Sub-Priory of San Jorge and Santiago, and the President and members of the Spanish Association (which organized the pilgrimage).