From China to Compostela, growing enthusiasm for the Camino de Santiago
by Xin Yage

The tradition is ancient, but has made a comeback in recent decades thanks to the enthusiasm of young Catholics from around the world. Asia is no exception: Korea leads statistical record with more than 4 thousand participants a year, but mainland China advances. A meeting in Taipei prepares pilgrimage of Taiwanese youth.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - The Camino de Santiago is the famous pilgrimage which from different parts of Spain and Europe arrive at Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of the apostle James (the elder) are venerated. The tradition is ancient, but was re-launched in recent decades, especially since the 1989 World Day of Youth which was held in the town of Galicia.

And Asian Catholics are no strangers to it either. In fact, yesterday morning a lively encounter at Fu Jen Catholic University began preparations for the pilgrimage. Organizers include Mr. Ken Chen (陳 墾 先生), Asia's largest supporter of the Camino. He is originally from Taiwan and lives on the island: the meeting introduced the history of the tradition and the latest statistics. There were a hundred people ready to take up their rucksack and undertake the adventure.

Mr. Chen Ken has already produced books and other publications on the Camino. And he is now active online to spread popularity of the initiative among lay people. His enthusiasm brought together participants of all ages and backgrounds and religions. He has already made the entire journey starting from Roncesvalles several times, and every pilgrimage makes him even more passionate about it.

"The Camino will change you profoundly, you meet people who you would never dream of meeting in your daily routine, and it brings you into a special contact with God and with yourself," he said opening the morning. The meeting was professionally organized providing details and data for those unfamiliar with the Camino.

Participants were divided into groups on arrival according to their enrollment in the three weeks prior to the meeting on Sunday. Everyone was enchanted by the experience and all present said they "can not wait" to share the pilgrimage.

The morning continued with a message from the vibrant, active and dynamic Vicar General of the Diocese of Beijing's Father Zhao Jianmin (趙建敏 神父), another great Camino fan who just wrote and published the book containing his diary of the pilgrimage (titled in Chinese: "800 公里 徒步, 聖 雅各 伯 朝聖 路", "a journey of 800 kilometers, the pilgrimage to Santiago").

In the message he apologized for not being present at the meeting and added that he was very happy for the fact that the experience is expanding among people of all ages also in Taiwan. Fr. Zhao is raising awareness of the Camino in China thanks to his books and blogs. More and more Chinese are intrigued by the Camino and above all more and more Chinese are literally starting to walk it.

"Thanks father Zhao!" Exclaimed Ken Chen after reading the message; then he continued by presenting statistics.

In Taiwan this year for the first time will participants will number over 100, mainly thanks to the initiatives of the parish of the Sacred Heart, in the center of Taipei, where Fr Tachi (達奇 神父), a native of Madrid, actively works as deputy parish priest together with Fr. Ku (具 神父), the pastor of Korean origin. "In fact, Koreans are arguably at the top of participants - presses Ken Chen - with more than four thousand pilgrims last year; Japanese pilgrims are growing significantly (more than 300) as well as Singapore, Hong Kong and the mainland (nearly a thousand), led by the enthusiasm of Fr. Zhao and many young people who discover a different way to visit Europe ".

"The Camino can literally unite people who are distant from each other and make them walk together, and this miracle takes place during all months of the year. Do not be afraid to go and invite your friends!”, concluded Chen Ken with warmth.