News, October 2004

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News Theme: Big events in 2004, Holy Year for Santiago and Forum of the Cultures in Barcelona, 500th anniversary of the death of Queen Isabel I

This year, three major long-running events are dominating the Spanish 'cultural diary'. They are the Año Jacobeo, or Holy Year of Pilgrimage to Santiago in Galicia, the Forum of the Cultures in Barcelona and the 500th anniversary of the deat of Isabel I, founder of the Spanish Inquisition. The first two, particularly, will draw many thousands of visitors, curious to see what is going on or perhaps committed to a particular expression of spirituality.

On the face of it, these events are diametrically opposed. The Año Jacobeo and the Isabel I anniversary are traditional religious events. The Año Jacobeo has been held from time to time since the middle ages. Indeed it was when the crusades made it impossible to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land that Santiago became a major player (against Rome) in the pilgrimage stakes, the first ever wave of tourism. The Barcelona Forum has closed after 141 days of activity, the last week being finally very busy after a slow start, while conclusions remain as divided as the opinions expressed before the start. It was to be a melting pot of cultural and religious ideas, where 'anything goes'.

Yet in the new age of spiritual search, both these destinations are open to people who are on a voyage of spiritual discovery. The Isabel I exhibition, recently opened in Valladolid, makes no mention of her involvement in the Inquisition, despite her having re-invented it to deal with heresy and despite the subsequent major involvement of Valladolid via the Autos de Fe where many believers were burnt in the reign of Phillip II. A best-selling novel on this latter event is The Heretic by Miguel Delibes. A campaign is under way to clear the queen's name as part of the process aimed at getting her 'beatified' by the Pope.

The Spanish Evangelicals are split on how to approach such occasions as we face in Spain this year. Some would want to stay aloof, preserving the purity of our faith in an immutable God. Truth is for them very important. For others, however, while not wanting to let go of their own beliefs, they see these events as a great opportunity to share what they have discovered along the road of spiritual discovery, particularly to share what God has revealed of himself. The Barcelona Gospel Choir, an evangelical choir with over 200 members, sang one day in relation to the Forum. Along the pilgrims' road to Santiago de Compostela, there is one rather distinctive hostel for these travellers, manned by evangelical volunteers (a minsitry of Campus Crusade). At the time of writing there is still a report of their activities during 2003 on the answers page of the prayer section.

An evangelical macro concert took place in Santiago on 14th August, right in front of the cathedral. More:

In all, some 6 million 'pilgrims' have walked all or part of the road to Santiago this year and finally'the road' has been awarded the Principe de Asturias prize for Concorde, Spain's equivalent of the Nobel Peace prize, for the way in which the walk brings together people of different cultures and nations in a common project and allowing them time to share and learn from one another.

More: Forum, Pilgrims report cf. Ligonde...

Finally, another significant anniversary in 2004 is the 400th anniversary of the mother of all novels, Cervantes' Don Quijote, a book written under the eyes of the Spanish Inquisition but which expresses many ideas and quotes scripture at large.