Tuesday, August 21, 2007

new rules to govern compostela

According to La Voz de Galicia (http://www.lavozdegalicia.es/santiago/2007/08/17/0003_6066768.htm), as of January 1, 2009, only those pilgrims holding credentials issued by the Cathedral of Santiago will be awarded the Compostela at the end of their journey. Currently, there are an estimated forty to fifty versions of the credential floating about, and the stated purpose of the reform is to combat abuses and clarify who is eligible for the certificate.

The Compostela is given to those who have completed the Camino "con sentido cristiano, aunque solo sea en un actitud de busqueda" - "in a Christian sense (manner / direction), even if it be only in an attitude of searching." At present, according to a cathedral spokesman, it is being claimed on a regular basis by "mere hikers and budget tourists" who show up at the Pilgrim Office bearing any old stamp-bearing document issued by dodgy Camino organizations and unscrupulous tour operators.

The abuses alleged are real. There are certainly individuals and groups who use the Camino's albergues as rest-stops on cheap holidays, driving from one to the next, arriving early to claim beds that should go to pilgrims who have walked or biked. I have known a few of these characters, and let me assure you that every last one of them held official credentials. They're really not that hard to obtain. So it's hard to see how the announced "reform" is going to change anything, and not surprising that many pilgrims are looking for a hidden agenda behind this unilateral move by the Cathedral of Santiago.

Let's hope there is no need for concern, and assume that if there is we can count on the various Camino associations - the ones who actually restored the path, established the refuges, and instituted the credential system - to speak out loud and clear on the issues.

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