Pilgrims are returning to Spain’s Camino de Santiago after COVID-19 restrictions kept them away, according to reports.
The centuries-old Catholic pilgrimage route ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in the northwestern region of the country, where St. James is said to be buried.
The Camino saw more than 340,000 pilgrims in 2019, according to The Associated Press — but just 50,000 in 2020, when Spain banned foreign and domestic travel, except during the summer.
Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela Julián Barrio said as many as 300,000 pilgrims could make the journey this year.
“The Way of St. James, in this sense, can help us. It is a space that helps us recover our inner peace, our stability, our spirit, which without doubt we all need, given the difficulties that we have in facing the pain and the ravages of the pandemic that sometimes leave us speechless,” he told the AP.
2021 turnout will likely be boosted by Pope Francis’s extension of the 2021 St. James Holy Year through 2022. Catholic pilgrims who complete the Camino during such a year and meet other conditions are granted a plenary indulgence.
A United Kingdom charity dedicated to promoting the Camino said this was the second such extension — “the first being in 1937-38 due to the ramifications of the Spanish Civil War.”