As the 2018 Synod of Bishops draws to a close, young people and bishops walked together along a medieval pilgrimage route to the tomb of St. Peter.
“For me this pilgrimage is a time for reflection, to reflect on how can I share what I have learned in this synod, what I have experienced,” Jules Boutros told CNA on the pilgrimage.
Boutros, a young Syriac Catholic priest from Beirut, participated as one of 36 youth auditors in the synod on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.
The pilgrimage was a breath of fresh air, another youth auditor from Jakarta, Indonesia said, “We have been stuck in that room for three weeks.”
“To meet young people, to pray with them, to pray the rosary with them, we needed it,” Archbishop David Macaire of Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France in Martinique told CNA.
“To walk together is a very good symbol, a good sign of what we have already lived as a group, as a community” at the synod, the archbishop continued.
Synod participants walked the final five miles of the Via Francigena pilgrimage route Oct. 25.
The Via Francigena is a historic pilgrimage route from Canterbury Cathedral through France and Switzerland to Rome. The first recorded pilgrimage along the Via Francigena dates back to the 9th century.
“What an inspired idea! A pilgrimage along an old pilgrim route to the Tomb of St Peter!” Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa wrote on Twitter Oct. 25.
“Great terrain for praying the Rosary or meditating!” Napier added.
The pilgrimage included stops for prayer with Gospel reflections on the road to Emmaus, a gospel narrative that has framed many of the synod discussions of accompaniment.
“Today we are walking together, like the Emmaus story. Together with the young people, with the bishops, with the priests, we walk together accompanying each other,” Archbishop Simon Peter Poh Hoon Seng of Kuching, Malaysia told CNA.
However, the trek winding around Monte Mario, the highest hill in Rome, was not easy for all of the bishops. Cardinal Napier said the rocky paths on the route were “hard, hard work.”
The pilgrimage culminated in a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with Pope Francis, presided over by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops.
Youth auditors from the Philippines, Canada, Zimbabwe, and Lebanon prayed the rosary together as they walked. Others chatted and exchanged vocation stories.
One young person called the pilgrimage a time of “deep reflection” with “the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
The close friendships that have developed among the 36 youth auditors during the synod were also clearly visible throughout the trek.
“It was only one month, but we are really like a family,” Corina Mortola, a youth auditor from Mexico told CNA.
“The 36 of us, we are friends. We are from India, Pakistan, Italia, Mexico, Chile, USA, Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Spain, and many places.”
She continued, “We are returning to our countries, but we are together for eternity.”