Pope Dresses as Pilgrim to Visit Tomb of St James

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
8 Nov 2010

Benedict XVI strictly followed the ritual of pilgrimage and plenary indulgence for the Holy Year of Compostela. Before entering the cathedral, the Pope greeted thousands of pilgrims who had been waiting since the early hours of the morning in Obradoiro square of Santiago de Compostela, which faces one of the most beautiful facades of the cathedral.

It was here that Benedict XVI put on a cloak traditionally worn by pilgrims, with the shell symbolizing the Faith and the Cross of St. James.

The Pope entered the cathedral through the Holy Door which is only opened in the Jubilee Year, he then prayed a few minutes at the tomb of Saint James, who according to tradition, brought Christianity to Spain.  Afterward, the Pope embraced the ancient statue of the apostle.

Inside the cathedral he was accompanied by about 1200 people, including clergy, and representatives from parishes, the city, and the disabled.

Benedict XVI
"In this Holy Year of Compostela, as the Successor of Peter, I also wanted to pilgrimage to the House of St. James, (...) to strengthen your faith and enliven your hope, and to entrust to the intercession of the Apostle your cravings, fatigue and work by the Gospel."

The Pope then admired the spectacular "botafumeiro," a symbol that remains in the cathedral from 450 years ago. The name of this huge censer means "spreader of smoke." It is only used in the most solemn ceremonies of the cathedral.

It weighs about 110 pounds and is five feet tall. Although it was for liturgical use, it also served to fight the bad odors produced by the pilgrims.

After visiting the cathedral, waiting for the Pope was a colorful surprise: this carpet made exclusively with flower petals.  It made a nice crown for his visit to the tomb of the Saint James.