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Austrian priest to undertake epic pilgrimage across the Alps

Fr Johannes Maria Schwarz

An Austrian priest is to embark on a gruelling, 2,550-mile pilgrimage across the Alps.

Along the way Fr Johannes Maria Schwarz will stop off at 200 Catholic churches, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, and document his journey on YouTube and Instagram.

“I want to tell the story of these places – their art, and what they teach about the faith. Think of it like a poor man’s Bishop Barron,” he said in a video posted at 4kmh.com. “An ‘Alpine Catholicism’ series with a priest worse looking, worse smelling, badly dressed … sharing less deep thoughts, possibly complaining about a sheepdog attack.”

Fr Schwarz, who has previously walked from Liechtenstein to Jerusalem and back, is asking for people to submit prayer intentions for the journey online. Each request will automatically be assigned a random section on the trail.

“In case you decide to leave your email, you will be notified when I get to that particular section of the trail, so you can join in the prayers and maybe you can even attend Mass that day,” he said. “So, regardless of how many miles might be between us, in Christ and His Sacrifice we are united.”

Fr Schwarz told the Herald he is preparing the equivalent of 120 homilies that he can deliver at various places on the trail. He said taking prayer requests with him on the trip was a “way to exercise my priestly office, to offer up the hardship and difficulties for the person I am praying for”, and would give his moments of pain and suffering more meaning.

Among the high points of the trip, he said, were a chapel whose origins are thought to go back to Irish missionaries in the 8th and 9th centuries, and an image of Our Lady that was brought to the top of a mountain above Turin by a count who had been freed from slavery.

Fr Schwarz will be posting dozens of YouTube videos of his journey in German. But he said he would most likely do some videos in English too, although these may come at a later date.

The priest, who is beginning his journey in two weeks, has asked for prayers. “The hope is that one or two people will benefit from my suffering,” he said.