The Caminos de Santiago – An Ecumenical Opportunity

Since my first journey in that winter of the Holy Year 1999, fellow pilgrims have kept asking me: “But if you’re not Catholic, why do you make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela?”

And for more then 20 years my answer has always been the same: “Because Santiago was not a Catholic either, he was a follower of Jesus Christ, simply a Christian.”

The Apostle Saint James, the friend of the Lord, lived before the sad separation of the churches, at a time when

“All the believers lived together and had everything in common;”

Acts 2:44

That sounds like the experience we have had as pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. And that is why I believe that the Camino de Santiago is an opportunity par excellence for ecumenism.

On the Camino we can have conversations about our faith that we rarely have in our daily lives. Conversations about our different experiences and practices but more than anything else about what we have in common: The difficulties of living our faith in an increasingly secular world. The miracles of every day. Our trust in God.

The simple practices of living each day with Jesus and how we do that on a very practical and personal level.

But with this joy of sharing always comes a deep mourning that we cannot share the sacrament that all Christians have in common – the Eucharist.

I know, there are good reasons for this, but it hurts, it hurts a lot when I am in the cathedral and, just before the distribution of the body of Christ I hear those words: “That only Catholics can come to receive.”

I have a dream – That one day we can all participate in Holy Communion in the cathedral and in all the churches of the world, no matter what church we come from, because it is the Lord who invites us and who knows our hearts. And He makes us worthy to receive Himself.

I have a dream – To hear those words “All Christians are welcome at the Lord’s table!”

Paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr. …

The first Christians were known as the ‘followers of the way’ as Saint Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles and the word pilgrim comes from the Latin ‘peregrinus’ which means he or she who crosses foreign lands as a free citizen – another thing we have in common.

We are all pilgrims to the eternal homeland – the heavenly Jerusalem, the new world where there is no mourning, no tears, only eternal joy in the presence of God!

At the end of his days on this earth Jesus prayed:

“… So that they may all be one. Like you, Father, in me and I in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. ”

John 17:21

How can we tell non-believers that following Jesus is the best Way if we don’t walk together? For more than 20 years, each of my pilgrimages was dedicated to that: The unity of all Christians. Each step of my pilgrim feet was a prayer for that …

After this year that we have lived through, full of losses of loved ones and dreams, my prayer is:

Lord, help us each day to grow closer to you and to each other, do not allow the division between the churches to deepen, but help us to grow each day closer to our brothers and sisters, so that one day we can all participate all in the same Eucharist that nourishes us all.

With Great Sadness

Today I had to make a heartbreaking decision, but the announcement by archbishop Justin Welby didn’t leave me any other choice.

I hereby resign from my post of lay coordinator for the Church of England Camino Chaplaincy here in Santiago de Compostela as well from being a member of the Church of England.

The reason: Archbishop Justin Welby announced some days ago that he will take a sabbatical of three months starting July next year.

For those that don’t know this, a sabbatical is a combination of vacation and study time for, in this context, clergy that they are entitled to have every ten years.

Don’t get me wrong, I wholly approve of clergy taking time off to re-charge their batteries. But for the primate (leader) of the Church of England, this is not the time. Yes, take a holiday, spend time with your loved ones and re-charge your batteries, +Justin. But not for THREE MONTHS! And NOT during the worst time humanity has gone through in ages, and will go through for a long time to come!

By planning to take THREE MONTHS off you show a blatant disregard for Jesus’ teaching. Jesus took time off for a few days, retired to the wilderness BUT then he came back to serve those that needed him most. And he never took time off the cross …

By indulging yourself in this amount of time off and personal study of your favourite subject, +Justin, you show me just one thing – That you don’t care.

You don’t care about your clergy struggling to provide pastoral care in any safe way possible.

You don’t care about Matthew 25, because if you did, you would have established a food bank at Lambeth Palace a long time ago – and volunteered in it.

As a church leader you are called to lead, announcing that you’re planning to take a sabbatical during one of the most challenging times we all, in the UK and everywhere in the world, are passing through shows such a disregard for your own ministry – and it makes me furious.

One more thing: How many people that work in the frontline can afford to take three months off? Nurses, first responders, any emergency stuff. NONE of them!

So, take your sabbatical, take your time off, and discover that when YOU are back we’re gone because the sheep don’t follow an unfaithful shepherd, they follow one that cares about them. Or, even more importantly, they follow a shepherd that doesn’t treat them as sheep …

I am committed to following Jesus, are you +Justin?

In one short sentence – You failed to help to build the kingdom of God and I can’t be anymore a member of the church you are the archbishop of, nor to support it as I have done in the past.

Egeria House Future

I don’t know really, I still will strife to facilitate services for pilgrims that are hopefully coming this next year. I hope to welcome them and, perhaps, it is time to think about an Ecumenical Camino Chaplaincy. I will continue to provide any practical help I can to both my neighbours and pilgrims. And with the help of God, as long as I live, there will always be an Egeria House here in Santiago where those to ring the doorbell will find a helping hand …

Keep safe and sane everybody, tired and sad hugs from Santiago, SY

Egeria House 2020

It’s incredibly difficult, to sum up, the last few months here in Santiago, on the Caminos and in Spain in general. So, please forgive me if this blog post runs a bit long and contains a lot of links to places where you can find more background information. I have also tried to structure it a bit by topics so that you can skip those that don’t interest you …

General Situation here in Spain and Santiago

At the time of writing, beginning of October 2020, we are firmly in the grip of the second wave here in Spain (actual figures >>>here<<< ). Whilst we are not back in full lockdown, mobility for non-essential travel has been restricted in places like Léon, Barcelona, and Madrid. I try my best to keep this page updated with the latest info about how these restrictions affect pilgrims currently on a Camino.

Our main restrictions here in Santiago refer to how many people from different households can meet up, restricted opening hours, restricted number of people allowed inside of shops and restaurants, restricted number of people allowed to gather outside as a group, obligation to wear a mask when outside your own home (the only exception is when you are eating or drinking something), keeping to social distancing at all time, hand sanitizer everywhere and so on.

Sometimes I feel like I live in a hospital for infectious diseases, with all the patients moving around, trying to keep their distance and wearing masks. My ‘social’ life has been pretty much reduced to online and the last time I hugged one of my friends was at the beginning of March. I am fully aware that a lot of people have it far, far worse than I do. I live in a cozy, bright flat with a balcony, I have enough to eat, and so on. All my basic needs are well covered and for that, I am truly thankful. But I still worry about my friends and I worry about where and how this all will end. OK, enough of doom and gloom, back to Chaplaincy and Camino updates!

Anglican Camino Chaplaincy

Beginning of April 2020 we took the planned program online, in a matter of speaking. Apart from providing material, both written and video/audio, for Easter we then also asked the chaplains that were meant to be here in Santiago de Compostela at certain dates, to provide ‘something’ during those dates for me to post here and on Facebook in the hope that it helps pilgrims stuck at home.

The church of Santa Susana might be empty now, but it will be waiting for us …

I love the creativity of the chaplains and how everybody contributed something unique. Many Muchas Gracias to all of you! If you want to have a look, all their contributions can be found here and our Facebook page for the Chaplaincy is here

As for 2021, a few days ago I had a phone conversation with Father Bob Bates, our lead chaplain, about the possible future of the chaplaincy next year. Before I tell you the result, here are some facts you might or might not know:

  • A large number of our volunteers are retired, meaning they are at least in one high-risk group, that of age.
  • Most of our volunteers come from the UK and the USA, both countries with different travel/quarantine restrictions that make it difficult to come over for a two-week volunteering stint and/or traveling back home.

The number of non-Spanish pilgrims, and especially of those that come from English speaking countries, has been very low in the three months since the Camino re-opened in July 2020. Take September, for example, a month that traditionally sees a lot of retired, foreign pilgrims that enjoy the cooler, but not yet cold, weather and the slightly quieter season.

In September 2019, a total of 45,653 pilgrims were registered by the Pilgrim’s Office here, this year the number was 10,441, so less than 25% of last years’ pilgrims. And if we look at the numbers of non-Spaniards, September 2019 saw 29,224 of them, and this year only 3,166, just over 10% compared to 2019. And in October, so far, we have seen between 200-300 pilgrims arriving each day, in 2019 the daily average for October was >1,000 pilgrims.

If you like to do your own number crunching, the Pilgrim’s Office publishes their monthly and yearly statistics here:

If we now look at the possible number of non-Roman Catholic pilgrims like outlined here: with an educated guesstimate of 10-15% of pilgrims coming from a Protestant background of any shape or form then we can ‘assume’ that less than 150 pilgrims MIGHT have been interested in the offerings of an Anglican Camino Chaplaincy here in Santiago de Compostela during the whole month of September 2020.

Experience from our two previous years shows that of those, perhaps 10% (being optimistic here) actually came in the past to one of our services or events. Now comes what I call the >Crystal Ball< bit:

How and What do we Best Plan for 2021?

Bearing all this in mind Father Bob and I have decided to offer some online worship material, reflections, sermons, and the like, for the major feast days like Advent and Christmas during the wintertime. We also think that it would be premature to even contemplate a ‘normal’ in-person chaplaincy for the first half of 2021. Instead, we will invite chaplains to do the same as this year, putting together material for pilgrims to reflect on and putting them up online again. We hope and pray that there is still a chance of some chaplains coming here to Santiago for the second half of 2021, but really, only God knows …

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this, but the combination of all the above plus the complexity of keeping pilgrims and chaplaincy volunteers safe during this pandemic is simply too much. Add to that the problem of how to house the chaplaincy volunteers, which typically come for two weeks, whilst maintaining social distancing if they would stay with me as some have done in the past.

And for those who wonder what happened to the donations / the fundraised money for the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy 2020, it’s sitting safely in the UK account of the Diocese in Europe, waiting to be used when and if an in-person chaplaincy is possible again.

Holy Year 2021

More, general, information about what the Holy Year is can be found here: and here:

As for 2021, the only thing we know for sure is that it will start, as always, with the opening of the Holy Door on 31st December. How many people will be allowed to attend the ceremony, will depend on the pandemic situation on that date.

Also undecided is if the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela will ask the Pope to extend the Holy Year into 2022. This decision will be made ‘closer to the time’ is what I ‘hear’ coming out of the archbishop’s office via our local media. A similar prolongation has been granted in the past, in 1885/86 to celebrate the re-discovery and the confirmation of the authenticity of the relics and in 1937/38 because of the Civil War here in Spain. So, again, we wait and see.

As for expected numbers in 2021, that is another ‘crystal ball topic’ and again, only God knows the answer to that one. BC (Before Covid), the expectation was that at least 500,000 pilgrims would be coming, plus several millions of visitors and tourists to the city. The only sure thing is that this number will be far, far lower. Not only due to travel restrictions, quarantine regulations in some countries, and general uncertainty, but also due to the economic downturn that has affected the livelihood and income of so many. Many that want to come will not be allowed to and many others simply can’t afford it anymore.

Pilgrims and Hospitality

Beginning of July, when the Caminos re-opened, I re-arranged my ‘pilgrim’s room’ to offer emergency accommodation if and when needed. At that moment our Covid numbers here in Santiago were very low and it felt safe to do so. I also made the decision that I only would give hospitality to pilgrims that had absolutely no other place to go, I didn’t want to make any competition to already struggling albergues and the like. That meant only ‘me or under the bridge’ cases.

Also, if somebody would have stayed with me, it would have meant keeping to social distancing and wearing a mask at all times, not easy in a relatively small flat. But nobody needed this kind of hospitality during the summer and so I ‘folded’ the pilgrim’s room together by end of September. Ironically, just the day after, I had a request. But by then our numbers had increased badly again and it didn’t feel safe to do so. But no worries, the pilgrim didn’t need to sleep in the streets, between Pilgrim House and me we found a good, safe place for her to stay.

This was the past, but it will be also the future, somewhere, some when …

Meeting Up with Pilgrims

One of the joys of previous years has always been meeting up with pilgrims and listening to their stories and experiences. This has happened a few times also this year, mainly outdoors and following all the guidelines. I enjoyed every single one of these meetings and if there is one thing I take away from it is that all pilgrims I spoke to said that they felt safer on the Camino in Spain than in their own country of residence.

Praying has been one of the few things that I can still do for pilgrims without any limits, so if you have a prayer request, please send them to me, see: for more information.

Camino Situation

The Camino re-opened beginning of July when travel across international and provincial borders was once again allowed. Sadly, many albergues couldn’t re-open this year, either because of their volunteer situation, again, many retirees there, or because they didn’t survive the lockdown financially and are now up for sale or looking for a new tenant. This made the accommodation situation for pilgrims this, short, season often complicated.

Generally speaking albergues and other hospitality places here in Spain follow the guidelines very strictly and expect the pilgrims to do the same. There have been extremely few cases where that didn’t work out well. So, in general, if following our guidelines, walking a Camino is one of the safest activities we still can do. For a recent blog by two pilgrims that walked the Camino Francés in August/September 2020 for a good cause, have a look >>>here<<<.

Some quick points if you’re planning a Camino in Covid times:

  • Always follow the travel guidelines and advice of your own country.
  • Make sure that your travel and health insurance covers Covid and repatriation.
  • Reserve accommodation and/or make sure to call ahead to see if they are open.
  • Have a plan B in place before you run into difficulties.
  • Budget more money than you would normally do, to pay for unexpected hotel stays, taxi rides, and so on.
  • Keep your eyes and ears on the local news, regarding possible new restrictions.
  • Follow all the guidelines and laws (face masks, social distancing, hand washing, and so on).

Download and use the Covid Radar App, more information about it can be found here:

Winter Camino

Additionally to what I mentioned above, if you plan to walk a Camino this winter, you need also to consider that a lot of albergues will close earlier, open later or not be open at all. The following website shows, from November onwards, which albergues are open on the Camino Francés. The information on it is as accurate as the information given to the people that maintain the website, so if you notice that something needs updating, please email them!

Personal Situation – Or what do I do now here in Santiago?

As I wrote here: the place I am living at now was only meant to be my winter flat for 2019/20. I am still here and will stay here at least until March/April 2021. If and when the FCJ sisters and their volunteers return, I will need to find a new place to live, hopefully with our volunteers.

I am still working as a freelance writer, I have published a new book (fiction and nothing to do with the Camino) and I am working on a new book, this one about the Camino. If you are interested in my writings, my author page can be found here: 

Additionally I have put up old and new designs at and plan to do more of this over the winter/spring.

The Box

The background story can be found here: The box has long moved inside the house entrance, which has advantages and disadvantages, but as spring came and the weather got warmer, it was just too limited what I could put into it. The other advantage is that I can speak with those that ring the doorbell and know now better what they really need, like diapers/nappies for their children or fresh fruit and vegetables. Yes, Spain has a social security net, but some people still fall through it.

Here is a lengthy article, sorry, in Spanish, that explains how this can happen.

I think that covers all for the moment, one last request, as I pray for you here in Santiago, please pray for all of us here in Santiago from wherever you are.

Buen Camino de la Vida and I hope to see you all again here in Santiago or on a Camino,


The Camino Chaplaincy goes online

10th October 2020 – Reflection by Revd Tim Daplyn for this coming Sunday. The PDF can be downloaded here:

3rd October 2020 – Reflection by Revd Tim Daplyn for this coming Sunday, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. The PDF can be downloaded here:

26th September 2020 – Reflection by Revd John Cunningham for this coming Sunday:

18th September 2020 – Reflection by Revd John Cunningham for this coming Sunday:

11th September 2020 – Reflection by Revd Gill Still for this coming Sunday:

3rd September 2020 – Reflection by Revd Gill Still for this coming Sunday:

30th August 2020 – Reflection by Revd Nick Finlay for this Sunday:

23rd August 2020 – Reflection by Revd Nick Finlay for this Sunday:

16th August 2020 – Reflection by Father Steve Danzey for this Sunday:

9th August 2020 – Reflection by Father Steve Danzey for this Sunday:

2nd August 2020 – Reflection by Father Bob Bates for this Sunday:

29th July 2020 – Reflection by Father Bob Bates for the Feast of Mary, Martha and Lazarus:

25th July 2020 – Reflection by Father Bob Bates for Saint James’ Day:

19th July 2020 – Camino Reflection Rev Canon Chris Stone


Text in PDF form:

12th July 2020 – Camino Reflection Rev Canon Chris Stone


Text in PDF form:

Camino Chaplaincy Meditation, July 5, 2020, The Reverend Sean Ferrell

The Reverend Sean Ferrell was to serve as a volunteer chaplain for the Anglican Chaplaincy for the Camino de Santiago de Compostela this week, receiving pilgrims and celebrating the Eucharist from July 1-11, 2020. This is a reflection, prepared for the Chaplaincy to put online since the COVID-19 Pandemic has interrupted in person ministry. The reflection is about carrying burdens, and it is based on Matthew 11:25-30, and reflects on carrying rocks for 345 miles along the Camino Francés, from St Jean Pied de Port, France, to Cruz de Ferro, in June of 2019.

29th June 2020 – A message from Father Bob Bates for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul can be downloaded from this link:

A message from the Revd Patrik Ahlmark for this Sunday, 28th June 2020:

24th June 2020 – A message from Father Bob Bates for the feast of the birth of John the Baptist can be downloaded from this link:

16th June 2020 – A reflection by Revd Maria Bergius for this week, some of the texts can be downloaded here:

14th June 2020 – A message from Revd Miriam Fife for this Sunday can be download at this link:

11th June 2020 – A message from Father Bob Bates for the Feast of Saint Barnabas can be downloaded >here<.

7th June 2020 – A message from Revd Miriam Fife for Trinity Sunday can be download at the link below.

31st May 2020 – A message from Revd Matthew Buterbaugh for Pentecost / Whitsunday:

24th May 2020 – A Sunday message from Revd Matthew Buterbaugh:

21st May 2020 -A message for Ascension Day from Father Bob Bates can be downloaded >here<.

17th May 2020 – A Sunday message from Revd William Hogg can be downloaded >here<.

14th May 2020 – A message from Father Bob Bates for the feast of Saint Mathias can be downloaded >here<.

10th May 2020 – A Sunday message from Revd Annie Hogg can be downloaded >here<.

3rd May 2020 – Sunday thoughts by father Bob, the PDF can be downloaded >here<.

1st May 2020 – A message of encouragement by Father Bob Bates can be downloaded >here<.

25th April 2020 – A message for the Feast Day of Saint Mark by our Camino Chaplain Father Bob Bates can be downloaded from here as a PDF: >Download<

Camino Chaplaincy Online Dates:

Please bookmark this page to see date and time of next meetings or follow us on Facebook here:

As many of us are stuck at home and long for the Camino, we want to offer you a place to share prayers, thoughts and reflections during these challenging times. No matter which faith you come from. We don’t have the answers, but we are here to listen and share. Our next online meeting will be tomorrow, Easter Sunday, 12th April 2020 at 17:00 Spanish time. We normally chat for about 20 – 30 minutes and then end with a short service, time of prayer, a reflection or similar.

The meeting will take place on Zoom, so it might be a good idea to download it beforehand, if you haven’t done so already, and familiarize yourself with it. As all of this is new to us, we will keep it simple, much like the Open House meetings we used to have here in Santiago. So, please make yourself comfortable, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and join us tomorrow with the following details:

Meeting ID: 823 410 447
Password: Camino

And please be patient with us if things don’t work out smoothly – we are all new to this!

Father Bob Bates has also put together some resources that you can download and either ponder alone or use in preparation to join us:

Online Resources for Holy Week:

Good Friday:

Easter Saturday:

Easter Sunday:

He is risen indeed! Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

Walking towards Unity

I’d be a very wealthy person if I got a cent every time some one asks me, “Why do you walk the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela when you aren’t a Catholic?”

My usual answer is, “Because Santiago wasn’t a Catholic either, or a protestant, or an orthodox, or a Baptist, or a {insert favourite Christian label here}.”

A symbol of Ecumenism, we are all in the same boat …

Santiago, Saint James the Greater in the bible, was one of the very first followers of Jesus. He heard the Good News and it turned his life around. He left behind everything he once held dear and started to spread the Word. The simple truth that “you are a beloved child of God”. Or, as I often put it, at the very heart of my faith is this: God loves us, everything else is secondary.

Ok, I managed to start off on a tangent at the very beginning of this blog post! The reason I started to write it, is that the whole theme of ecumenism ties in with the publication of archbishop Julián’s pastoral letter for the next Holy Year 2021 (source:

It is a lengthy document, but I would like to draw your attention to this paragraph which made my heart sing with gratitude:

“The Catholic Church also becomes a pilgrim with other Churches and ecclesial communities so that the unity of all Christians becomes effective. The body of Christ cannot be divided. Therefore, ecumenism is a sacred duty for us. This takes us beyond manifestations of good intentions, also requiring concrete initiatives. Thus, in our city of Santiago, they share the same sacred space, a small church, Anglicans, Orthodox and Protestants, so that the same Spirit that makes us Christians, helps us to live communion among us by pilgrimage towards unity.”

The significance of this statement can’t be overstated. It is of historic importance.

The acknowledgment that we all form the body of Christ, no matter from which church background we come from and the firm commitment to a common pilgrimage towards unity put such a joyful smile onto my face!

So, thank you Don Julián for all the support you have given the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy in the past and let’s continue a pilgrimage towards Christian unity. We have already come a long Camino, but there is still a long way to go until the sad division of churches is a thing of the past.

Next step ???

Support the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy 2020

Due to Covid-19 there will be no Camino Chaplaincy this year here in Santiago. Please check for online events here:

Summary of activity in the first two seasons:

2018 – The Chaplaincy started as a pilot. With the help of 6 priests and 5 lay volunteers the Chaplaincy was launched and from 13 May – 24 June, and 2 September – 21 October, 27 church services were held.

2019 – 7 priests and 6 lay volunteers provided 39 church services continuously from 12 May – 9 October. The average attendance at services increased by 29% compared to the previous year.

Pilgrims and volunteers gathered around the table for a shared meal.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story:

  • The personal contact with pilgrims and visitors to Santiago. The Eucharists and shared meals which were like Nations United.
  • The joy in the faces of the sick pilgrim we visited in their albergue or at their hospital bed providing both practical and spiritual support.
  • The peace of mind of those who were supported by our chaplains to talk about difficult issues.
  • The laughter and the prayers shared among the chaplaincy team.
  • The excellent ecumenical relations we have formed in Santiago, founded on our common belief that we are all here to serve pilgrims.

Our plans for 2020:

As in previous years we plan to provide midweek and Sunday services. We will also welcome pilgrims for coffee, cookies and chats during our Open House at the Ecumenical Centre, as well as hosting shared meals. Most importantly, we will continue to provide and develop our pastoral services and the practical help we can offer pilgrims.

We depend on donations to fund these activities and although individually they don’t cost a lot, over time the costs add up. As our ministry to pilgrims and visitors here in Santiago de Compostela grows, so will the costs!

Please consider supporting us:

If you are considering supporting the Chaplaincy here are several ways you can help – only one of the suggestions costs money:

Pray for us, especially during the winter, as we do the preparation work for next season. Please also pray for the volunteers, both priests and lay people, who will serve during the Chaplaincy season in 2020.

Spread the word about us, and tell everybody that we are here! Word of mouth, either online or in real life, is the best way to make this ministry widely known.

Sign-up to our Newsletter, and stay informed about our activities. You can either use the form in the sidebar of this blog or this >>>direct link<<<.

Tell your friends. Please forward this link to anybody you think might be interested in what we do, so that they also can sign up to our newsletter.

Facebook. We also have a Facebook Page here: where we regularly post information about events during the season – please ‘like’ it and share it.

Donations: As there are no running costs this year, we are not asking for donations anymore. All donations that have been already received have been transferred to our UK bank account with the Diocese in Europe, Church of England and are ready to be used when the Camino re-opens and pilgrims will need our help.

Volunteering with the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy in 2021:

2021 is the next Holy Year which will bring many more pilgrims than usual to Santiago. We will need all of the help we can get. If you are an ordained priest in a Church in full communion with the Church of England and interested in helping, please email our lead Chaplain Fr Bob for further information:

We might have, limited, need for lay volunteers, in that case, please contact me here:

And finally:

Buen Camino and prayers from Santiago. If you have any questions or suggestions please leave them in a comment or contact me directly via

How many Protestants are on the Camino de Santiago?

When you start a new ministry, such as our Anglican Camino Chaplaincy here in Santiago, everyone asks the same questions: Is there enough interest in this kind of ministry? Is it worthwhile? Are there enough pilgrims that might be interested in this? Or, better said: ‘How many Protestants are actually on the Camino de Santiago and in Santiago de Compostela itself?

All different, all similar, all pilgrims …

From the very beginning it became clear that the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy is indeed a ‘catch-all’for pilgrims from a variety of different church backgrounds and countries. It is not a ‘The Brits Abroad’ chaplaincy! A typical Sunday congregation can be easily contain people from 6 different countries and 6 different home churches. I remember having worshipped with and led worship for: Lutherans from Sweden, Protestants from Germany, Anglicans from South Africa, United Church of Christ members from the USA and, yes, Church of England members from the UK and many, many more.  We will only see most of these worshippers once, and they will be on their way to their homes in a day or two. Apart of the ones that volunteer here for a longer period of time or live here. We are delighted to see them over and over again!

Over the last two years it became very clear that this is a multi-national and multi-denominational ministry that just happens to be led by the Church of England but unites people from all kind of backgrounds and countries. The chaplaincy is under the auspices of the Church of England, which has managed pastoral services to English-speakers in Spain for almost 200 years and is under the supervision of their Bishop in Europe and its suffragan bishop, +David Hamid, that is directly responsible for this project.  And just for the record, while our main focus is on ministering to pilgrims, visitors to the city and residents of it are just as welcome! The door is open for everyone!

A few bits of clarification:

First, the terms Protestant and Protestant Churches are used in this blog post to encompass everybody, including, but not limited to, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Old Catholics, Baptists, United Church of Christ, basically all Christians that are NOT Roman-Catholic NOR Orthodox.  My heartfelt apologies to those of my fellow Anglicans who don’t like to be called Protestants btw 😉

Also, it is difficult to say which percentage of pilgrims comes from a certain church background AND still practice their faith in that same church environment.

For example, Spain is a predominantly Catholic country, but not everybody that self-identifies as Catholic actually ever darkens the door of a church here 😉

On the other hand, countries like Canada, the USA and South Korea might send more pilgrims, proportionally, as they heard about the Camino first in a ‘religious’ context and are practising members of their respective churches.

As far as I know (please correct me if you have more information!) only one of the main starting points collects information about the church affiliation of pilgrims and that is Roncesvalles on the Camino Francés.

The problem is that I can’t find these statistics anywhere. Apparently they go into a black hole in the Government of Navarra. If somebody could take a spaceship there and dig them out, that would be very much appreciated!

But even if that would happen one day, only 5,541 pilgrims (1,69% of all pilgrims in 2018!) started their Camino in Roncesvalles that year. So, that information would have to be extrapolated with a huge grain of salt as the total number of pilgrims registered by the Pilgrim’s Office here in Santiago in 2018 was: 327,378!

A pilgrim friend of mine had a better idea.  He looked at the top 15 groups of pilgrims by country in 2018 as registered by the Pilgrim’s Office here in Santiago and then applied their ‘home country’ denominational ratio to them.

For example: with 144,141 Spanish pilgrims arriving in Santiago in 2018, and because Spain is a predominantly Roman-Catholic country, only 1.2% of the population have declared themselves being protestants in the last census. Which gives us a guesstimate of 1,729 Spanish protestant pilgrims on the Camino.

In my own experience, I would say the number is in reality far lower as a lot of Spanish protestants belong to non-denominational Churches which really haven’t developed a tradition of pilgrimage to Santiago – yet. In fact, I have only met perhaps two handful of Spanish Protestant pilgrims over the last twenty years…  And, in any case, they wouldn’t be necessarily be interested in an English language ministry.

The next biggest (by country) group of pilgrims comes from Italy with around 216 Protestant pilgrims.  Again, Italy is a predominantly Catholic country.

After that we have Germany, which does indeed have a higher percentage of Protestants and so we got likely 6,451 Protestant pilgrims from Germany in 2018.

Next in line is the USA, the first predominantly English-speaking country in the list, with a likelihood of having contributed 8,262 pilgrims.

And so it goes on, if you would like to see the rest of the numbers, please download the PDF from the link at the bottom of this blog post.

And if we look now at the top English-speaking countries from which the pilgrims come from, the total numbers get even smaller:

  • USA – likely 8,262 Protestants from different churches
  • Great Britain – likely 1,990 Protestants from different churches
  • Ireland – likely 943 Protestants from different churches

To cut a long story short and taking in account the 15 Top countries where pilgrims come from we get a guestimate of 28,271 Protestant pilgrims in this Top 15 group. And the total of all pilgrims from these Top 15 countries is 286,934.

Summary: As a careful guesstimate, between 10% and 15% of all pilgrims that arrived 2018 in Santiago, and who went to the Pilgrim’s Office for their Compostelas, were Protestants.

Which gives us the following numbers:

  • Pilgrims in total- 327,378
  • Possibly Protestant Pilgrims: ~32,737 and ~49,105

And if we take into account the number of pilgrims who come from English-speaking countries or a country where English is widely spoken as a second language, the number of pilgrims that might be interested in an English language service offering drops again.

So, my personal guesstimate is that around 15,000 and 20,000 Protestants from a variety of different churches AND that speak English as a first or second language, arrived last year in Santiago.

So, yes, having a Anglican Camino Chaplaincy here in Santiago de Compostela makes an awful lot of sense!

Any thoughts or questions? Please leave them in a comment below! Many Muchas Gracias and Buen Camino wherever you are Peregrin@s!

And if you want to have a look at the original numbers my pilgrim friend crunched and which sources of information he used– and he emphasizes that this is a methodologically imperfect exercise, have a look at this >>>PDF File<<< Click to download …

Rev Alasdair Kay – Anglican Camino Chaplain

The Rev Alasdair Kay (Church of England) served as a Camino Chaplain both in 2018 and 2019, here a short report by him about his experience:

Rev Alasdair before Santiago cathedral.

I walked my first Camino in 2016 whilst on a sabbatical as a Parish Priest. I began in St Jean Pied de Port and walked to Santiago de Compostela and then on to Finesterre and Muxia. Since then I have walked another serving as an Anglican Chaplain on the Camino.

The Camino is a life changing journey on several levels. It can be a time of deep reflection where pilgrims grow deeper in their spirituality and often Pilgrims talk of times of encountering the divine in solitude and silence. Every Camino has had its times of real physical exertion and pain. This pain can be cathartic as it releases stress and helps people to access inner emotional and spiritual pain that is carried in life. The Camino is a place of healing and the healing happens at a deep level in a very mystical way.

People walk the Camino for a host of reasons. Our role as Chaplains on the Camino is to serve those Pilgrims who are looking for spiritual support in their Camino. Some pilgrims like to share with others and want to talk to someone about their inner life and this is where the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy comes in. Whilst walking the Camino as a Pilgrim we have many spiritual conversations with people on a whole host of subjects, faith, death, pain, relationships, prayer, the sacraments, and especially blisters and tendonitis.

Our role as Chaplains is to come alongside those who want to form this ongoing connection and often we gather as Pilgrims in what is called “Camino families” groups of Pilgrims who become friends as they walk on the Camino. We then as we walk share together our joys and pains in the inner and outer journey of the Camino. This often happens around the daily pilgrims meal at the end of the day eating and drinking together.

This year I walked the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago and made 12 good friends who I still stay in contact with. Pilgrims from Malaysia, USA, Chile, Holland, Germany, Brazil, and Denmark, together we formed a Camino family and it was a real joy to all finish our pilgrimage together celebrating a special Eucharist at Santa Susanna Church in Santiago.


Br Alasdair CFC (Community of Francis and Clare)

Camino Chaplaincy 2019

If you don’t want to read all about the Anglican-Episcopalian Camino Chaplaincy 2019 in detail, but only want to have the quick summary, here it is:

Background story and what we offered in 2018 can be found here

In 2019 we want to run the Camino Chaplaincy longer, from April/May all through to October/November and not only in Santiago itself but also by sending “self-supporting” Camino Chaplains out to walk with the pilgrims on the different Caminos.

If you want to support us, you can:

Pray for us

Spread the word about us and

Donate to us   >>>here<<<.

If you now want to know more details, read on …


What we did in 2018

One of our very first congregations in 2018 with the Revd. Liska Stefko (Canada) our first volunteer priest.

The Camino Chaplaincy 2018 was based out of my place here in Santiago, with 11 volunteers from 5 different countries being involved in it. What we did:

  • 27 church services (Sunday mornings in a chapel-like room the Parador Hotel has given us for free, Wednesday afternoons at my home, followed by a shared meal).
  • Open House each weekday afternoon, for coffee/tea and chat.
  • Hospital and albergue visits to ill pilgrims.
  • Meeting up with pilgrims when requested.
  • Going out and about town and the last kilometres/miles of many Caminos to meet pilgrims, encourage them, welcome them and listen to them.
  • Working closely together with ecumenical partners here in Santiago.
  • Providing practical help (food, equipment etc) to pilgrims that either came directly to us or were referred to us by our ecumenical partners.
  • And for Saint Francis Day, we even had a service of pet blessing for Estela the Camino Kitten in the house 😉

Father Bob Bates blessing Estela the Camino Kitten on Saint Francis Day.


What our Plans for 2019 are

All of the above and some more!

Additionally to the things we have already done in 2018, we would like to extend our services from end of April to mid November all through the whole pilgrim season 2019.

We would like to offer at least 2 weekday Eucharists followed by a shared meal additionally to our Sunday Eucharist.

Apart of serving pilgrims here in Santiago, we also plan to send out self-supporting “walking chaplains” to minister to pilgrims on the way. These chaplains, like all other volunteers, will pay their own way, but it would be nice if we would have some funds to offer them hospitality on arrival here in Santiago and a welcome meal!

If you want to support our plans for 2019, there are three things that you can do and the good news is that two of them don’t cost you any money:

Pray for us – Especially for the selection and training of next year’s volunteers, for all of us as we live together in Santiago and a place for us to worship.

Tell others about us – Whilst the work of the Chaplaincy got widely advertised both online and offline, word of mouth is still the best advertisement! So, if you know of somebody that plans to do the Camino in 2019, give them this link where they can find out more about us, what we do and where to find us. And feel free to post said link on social media and elsewhere, where appropriate. Additionally you can point pilgrims to our Facebook page here:

Donate to us – All chaplaincy volunteers pay their own travel cost and this year some of them even paid for their own accommodation, food etc. Next year we would like to offer all volunteers here in Santiago accommodation and at least some food. Other costs include printing of material and basic mass supplies, but accommodation rental is obviously the biggest expense. Additionally there are the costs of providing a shared meal after the weekday Eucharists and also for practical help (food, equipment) for pilgrims that ‘knock at the door’. If you want to help with the costs of next year’s Chaplaincy, you can use the following >>>LINK<<< or you can contact me directly for other options.

As an indication: It costs around 15 Euro/day to run the chaplaincy, that includes accommodation and food for pilgrims and volunteers plus the aforementioned costs like printing and mass supplies. If you could sponsor one or more days of this – that would be a big help!

And if you have anymore questions or suggestions, please leave them in a comment or contact me directly via

Buen Camino, SY