VATICAN CITY — St Peter’s Square is never dull. People from all over the world end up there. The square has hosted Masses, religious processions, concerts and the starting lines or finishing lines of marathons, bike races and car rallies.
But the mules in the square this morning were unusual.
As were the 300 Spanish pilgrims who were with them. The pilgrims had just spent nine days walking from Assisi, Italy, to Rome, taking a wandering path through the countryside of Umbria and Lazio to visit sites associated with the life of St. Francis of Assisi. They walked 103 miles with 10 mules, who took turns pulling eight colorfully decorated carts. Several of the carts carried statues, including of Mary and of St. James.
Many members of the group organized in the town of Fuenterroble, Spain, are used to walking pilgrimages — they are experts on the road to Santiago di Compostela, where tradition says the Apostle James is buried.
Their Italian pilgrimage, which they called the “Via Lucis” (or “Way of Light”), commemorated the pilgrimage of St. Francis to Santiago in 1214. And, they said, it also was an opportunity “to reunite St. James with St. Peter” — who is buried at the Vatican — and to honor St. Paul a few months after the end of the year marking the 2,000th anniversary of his birth.