THEY took with them a gift of incense along the pilgrims' route
to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. A dozen young pilgrims, drawn
from several churches in the Peterborough diocese,
together with adult companions, walked for a fortnight for some 200
miles along the Camino Francés across northern Spain from
León to Santiago.
Although adult pilgrimages have been organised about twice a
year for the past five years, this was the first youth pilgrimage.
The Suffragan Bishop of Brixworth, the Rt Revd John Holbrook, had
commissioned them at a special service in St Mary's, Far Cotton, in
Northampton, before they left. He then flew out to join them for
the last few miles of their journey to the cathedral and the
traditional shrine of St James, where they arrived in time for the
daily pilgrim mass.
Still wearing his chinos, hiking boots, and a short-sleeved
episcopal shirt, the Bishop was ushered into the seat of honour in
the sanctuary, which is usually used by the King of Spain, or his
representative, on the feast of St James.
The young people and the rest of the Anglican pilgrims were
escorted to the front of the packed congregation, and publicly
welcomed by the Dean. Bishop Holbrook was invited to give a short
address in English (opening with a few words in Spanish) during the
service. After communion (at which the Anglican visitors received
the presiding bishop's blessing), Bishop Holbrook and the
pilgrimage leader, the Revd Ian Holdsworth, were invited to help
load the cathedral's famous botafumeiro, or giant
thurible, with their gift of incense.
The thurible is said to be the largest in the world, standing
1.6 metres high, and weighing 80kg. Sounding very dangerous, it is
swung at speeds said to rise to 80km an hour across the cathedral
by a team of eight robed men using pulleys.
When the charging of the incense burner was complete, the
congregation burst into applause, and Bishop Holbrook was invited
by the visiting Spanish bishop to join with him in blessing the
congregation. "I felt completely overwhelmed by the warmth and
graciousness of the welcome we were given by the cathedral," Bishop
Holbrook said. Later in the day, the Dean gave the Anglican
pilgrims a tour of the museum, and opened a side chapel so that
they could have their own communion service, at which Bishop