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Honoured Anglicans

10 August 2012

JOHNNY WALKER

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 Holbrook presided.

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