Wed Cluster Walks: Ultreya

Introduction

A fortnight ago, we reluctantly communicated the decision that we would be stopping the weekly ‘Wed Walks’ (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-in-smaller-groups/). We took the decision with a heavy heart because Wed Walks had started to gain momentum attracting between 50 to 100 walkers each week. As a result of various calls to re-consider, and with the assistance of various persons that stepped up to the plate to lead smaller groups, XirCammini has put in place a calendar and itinerary of walks that rotate per cluster group.

 

Cluster Groups: How will it work?

Last week we re-communicated through our website and on social media (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/wed-walks-with-your-help-we-can-carry-on/) that Wed Walks will continue, albeit in a different format, i.e. in groups of 10 on a rotating itinerary of walks. This means that several walks in various parts of Malta will take place each Wednesday evening with group sizes bring curtailed at 10 per group. Persons participating in these groups are persons who answered our poll and/or concurrently interacted with us at the time. Groups and itineraries are now fixed until the end of September when the scheme will be re-evaluated in the light of Covid-19 developments. By now, all persons who interacted with us in this respect would have been allotted an FB Chat group informing them of the leader and fellow group members and of the first walk. We ask for your understanding not to request changes because (a.) putting the whole plan into place was a significant endeavour and (b.) volunteers (who otherwise also have full-time jobs and personal responsibilities) undertake all the work on a voluntary basis by sacrificing personal time.

Thank you.

 

Risk Management Considerations

Some have asked, “Why all the work (and fuss) when outside events have a 300-person limit?”

If we had to provide one succinct answer to the above question, it would be, “To reduce the probability of spread and to lessen potential consequences in the event of Covid contagion.”

What does this mean?

  1. If you are in a group of 10 persons that does not change from one week to the next, the probability of coming into contact with an infected and/or asymptomatic person is much less than if you are walking with a group of 50 or more people that change each week.
  2. Similarly, if you an asymptomatic carrier the possibility of transmission is to a smaller group of people instead of the whole group. This also significantly reduces the burden on contract tracing and swabbing for the health authorities.

Why have we continued with the walks?

The short reply would be because of an overwhelming response to do so notwithstanding the circumstances.

The underlying response is that – even under normal circumstances – several people are benefitting whether physically, psychologically, emotionally or spiritually when participating in these Wed Walks.

Covid-19 has heightened some of the fears, concerns, anxiety, stress and loneliness and in some cases increased real or perceived isolation. Within this context, these walks have become even more relevant for our well-being.

This being stated, they had to be ‘re-engineered’ to respect the realities we are living in and the directives from health and government authorities in this respect.

Health Directives: Our 10 Commandments.

By participating in these walks, walkers bind themselves to the following directives. Help us to continue providing you with walks:

  1. DO NOT join a walk if you are sick, running a temperature, have a cough, or experiencing trouble to breathe;
  2. DO NOT join a walk if you or persons close to you have recently (i.e. during the last fortnight) returned from overseas from a country with whom there isn’t an established ‘safe-corridor’;
  3. When we meet AVOID ANY FORM of physical contact with others (i.e. shaking hands, hugging, kissing etc.) and try to maintain a 2-metre physical distance;
  4. AVOID touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Carry and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, tissues, and other hygiene products constantly on a trek. Please also dispose of these responsibly;
  5. USE soap and water if hands are visibly dirty;
  6. COVER your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing;
  7. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES invite others to join your cluster for the weekly Wed Walk. Cluster leaders have instructions to turn away anyone who is not pre-registered in the respective cluster.
  8. GIVE your leader a telephone number on which you can be contacted in case these are required (a.) for further announcements by your leader and/or (b.) for us to share with Health Authorities if asked e.g. for contact tracing.
  9. By participating in your cluster you are CONSENTING to providing your telephone contact number and to us sharing it with health authorities if required.
  10. You also agree that you are participating freely in such walks and freely assume any risks arising from such walks. You hold XirCammini harmless and free from any liability for any accident, illness, injury, loss or direct or indirect consequences of such accident, illness, injury or loss.

Conclusion: A Word of Thanks.

I want to thank the Committee members who participated in the discussions and assisted in bringing this plan to fruition and also to the persons who kindly offered to lead cluster groups. These walks would not have been possible without their assistance. In choosing leaders, XirCammini:

  1. Decided the overall direction, encouraging a change in thinking;
  2. Empowered people and will continue to support them to achieve;
  3. Provided an overall framework for effective implementation and leader guidance, aligning clusters and facilitating ‘cluster’ decisions;
  4. Created a system that is flexible to respond to changes and improvements.

In other words, this was and will continue to be an exercise of leadership in action.

A lot of thought, planning and execution went into the process. The success of these walks now hinges on response and cooperation of walkers in each group, the ultimate beneficiaries.

Wed Walks: With your help we can carry on!

Introduction

In our post of yesterday (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-in-smaller-groups/) we postponed the XirCammini Wed Walks until the end of September because of the prevailing, uncertain Covid-19 situation. However, we have had overwhelming feedback to find a feasible solution that does not involve complete postponement of walks that we were compelled to re-consider.

We understand that the Wed Walk is proving to be beneficial whether physically, psychologically, emotionally and /or socially to several people. At the same time there are significant ‘burdens’ (and understandably so) placed on organisers under the present circumstances.

A compromise to carry on

Coming up with a compromise that (a.) provides an opportunity for individuals to continue to meet and walk in small groups and (b.) respecting our social responsibilities to combat Covid-19 is not easy. But, as XirCammini, we do have a proposal as follows:

  • We roll out Wed Walk Clusters from Wednesday, 112th August but with a big difference.
  • A poll will be published on our social media group platform asking walkers to inform us whether they wish to join the Wed Walks or not. This is a ‘once only’ poll and people who opt out would opt out from now until the end of September (when the situation will be reviewed). THERE WILL BE NO ADDITIONS / CHANGES ONCE THE GROUPS ARE FORMED EVEN IF PEOPLE DROP OUT OR DO NOT TURN UP;
  • The ‘cut off date‘ of the poll is Friday, 7th August 2020. Persons answering after this date will not be included;
  • Those who opt in will be divided into groups of 10 (9 + 1 leader) and they remain in that group until the end of September;
  • Events will be ‘group-specific’ (i.e. for each 10-member group). Persons CANNOT under any circumstance:
    • Change groups; or
    • Invite others to join them

If you do, you and your invited friends will be asked to leave;

  • Anyone joining will have to respect health directives. Group leaders will also be asked to collect phone numbers of each member in their 10-member cluster in case these are required for contact tracing by health authorities;
  • Continuation of walks will always be subject to health authority directives. It is important that we respect directives by the Superintendence of Health at all times;
  • People participate at their own risk. No liability can be accepted by the organisers for any injury, illness, infection or loss occurring during the walks;
  • People are reminded that this is not a leisurely walk. Whoever commits to join commits to maintain a brisk pace and keep up with the group.

Conclusion: Be respectful

For those who intend to join we kindly ask you to be respectful towards your Cluster Leader and Cluster Members as well as to any health directives that are issued from time to time.

For those who opt out for the time being we understand. But, we also ask you to be respectful of those who decide to continue with the XirCammini Wed Walks. There may be a story that we are not privy to behind every face and a reason that we cannot decipher moving every pace.

We may all be on the same journey yet each person’s motive or destination is different.

Covid-19: Keep Calm | Carry on (in smaller groups)

Regrettably we will be stopping the Wed Walks until further notice to respect the spirit of the law in the ensuing Covid-19 situation.

This is clearly articulated by the Superintendence of Health in bold, red script their latest regulations.

We shall re-assess the situation towards the end of September with a view to re-initiating the Wed Walks from Wed October 7th, 2020.

It is a decision reached with a heavy heart especially since, from the June re-opening, each Wed Walk attracted between 50 – 100 walkers. Recognizing the physical, psychological and social benefits of exercising outdoors, we strongly urge people to continue to walk solo or in very small groups (the current regulatory definition of a cluster is 10) and to observe health regulations in doing so. If we can be of assistance with hiking ideas please reach out to us via our FB platform.

In conclusion, the ones most in need of such walks are the ones who are most likely to retreat quietly until publicly available again.

Can I please ask all others to ‘step up to the plate’, take the initiative, call and continue to interact with people to whom these walks offered sanity or a well-being opportunity. We’re all pilgrims on the same journey in life even when calamity prevents us from walking.

latest Directives by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Health

Jubilee Year 101 & Santiago

With the Jubilee Year for Santiago de Compostela fast approaching the debate on whether there are any rules regarding the year (calendar or liturgical) that it should follow as well as other questions surrounding the topic.

The only ‘rule’ regarding the Años Xacobeos in Santiago is that it occurs when the feast of St. James falls on a Sunday. However, other Jubilee Years declared by the Catholic Church have also been observed in Santiago outside this rule, such as the Year of Mercy in 2016. ‘Jubilee’ is not with reference to an anniversary but to ‘iubilare’ meaning rejoicing.

The following is a ‘Jubilee Years 101’ in general with some specific reference to Santiago. St. James and/or the Camino where these cross paths:

  1. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela follows a Calendar year when it comes to the Years of Jubilee. The coming year’s (2021) may also be extended into 2022 as thanksgiving following the ordeals of this year.
  • Jubilee years in general (unlike the one of Santiago) tend to follow a Liturgical year starting with the first Sunday of Advent and generally extending until Epiphany after the 2nd Christmas.  It follows the ‘life-cycle’ of Jesus from the preparation of his coming on earth (Advent) until the preparation of the second coming (Christ the King, before the following Advent) and generally extending into the Christmas festivities beyond that until Epiphany. However, they do not necessarily follow this pattern. The 2000 Year of Mercy was inaugurated on Christmas Eve 1999 and the Doors of Mercy were closed on Epiphany of 2001.
  • Historically, in Christianity Pope Boniface VIII instituted the Jubilee Year once every 100 years in the early 14th century and the event is intrinsically tied to pilgrims then visiting Rome. Its biblical basis is found in
    • Leviticus (Hebrew: yōḇēl) where Jews declared a year of emancipation and restoration every ‘seven weeks of years’ (i.e. every 50 years not 100 years) where slaves were liberated and debtors freed from their debts; and
    • Luke 4: 18-20: Recalling Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth reading, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me, to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Latin: Iubilare). According to the Catholic Church it is a time of spiritual indulgence and remission from sin and, hence, a period of jubilation (rejoicing) based on the ‘Joyful’ message of redemption in the above passage proclaimed by Jesus anointed to deliver us.
  • Pope Boniface VIII probably instituted the Jubilee Year to generate money from pilgrims visiting Rome and also to garner support for the spiritual and, then also, temporal supremacy of the Papacy in the face of his on-going feud with Philip IV of France (who was heavily indebted to the Church and also to monastic chivalry orders). After Boniface death, Clement V was elected Pope through the connivance of Philip IV and – together – they crushed the Templars; ridding Philip IV of a substantial part of his debt. Pope Clement V’s appointment is of significance to the Camino de Santiago because Templar lands and properties along the Camino were transferred to the Knights Hospitalier of St. John of Jersulem and Rhodes (Later the Knights of Malta).
  • Pope Clement VI changed the Jubilee Year from a once in 100 to once in 50 years’ event in the Papal Bull, Unigenitus.
  • Towards the end of the 14th century, Pope Urbanus VI changed the cycle from 50 years to 33 years based on the earthly life of Christ.
  • Pope Boniface IX published the Papal Bull Antiquorum habet fida relatio offering a pardon of all their sins for pilgrims visiting the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome, at least once a day (for thirty days in the case of inhabitants and 15 days for visiting pilgrims). 1400 was not really a ‘year of deliverance’ since a 2nd wave of the plague was killing over 500 pilgrims and inhabitants a day in Rome!
  • While Pope Martin V in the early 15th century followed on the 33 year cycle, his successor Pope Nicholas V reverted to the the 50 year cycle and his successor – Pope Paul II – reduced it to a 25-year cycle which is still practiced in Rome until today. Because of wars in Europe at the time, the Pope also permitted Jubilee Years to be held in specific churches in one’s own country rather than in Rome. It is probably during the papacy of Martin V (or his successor Eugene IV) during the earlier part of the 15th century that the Jubilee Year in Santiago was instituted though it echoed the plenary indulgence granted by Calixtus II in 1122 to pilgrims visiting Santiago in the years when the Saint’s day fell on a Sunday. Pope Alexander II also earlier bestowed plenary indulgences in 1063 to Christians who came to Spain to fight against the ‘infidels’. The Reconquista continued in Spain until 1492.
  • 1500 sees the start of the tradition of the ‘opening of the door of mercy’ (echoing Christ’s words, “I am the door…”. Pope Alexander VI (the notorious Papa Borgia) opened the door at St. Peter’s and designated cardinals to, simultaneously, open those of St. John Lateran, St. Maria Maggiore and St. Paul’s in Rome. An estimated 200,000 pilgrims were present in Rome for that Jubilee Year. Pope Alexander VI is also the Pope who entrusted the confraternity of the Knights of St. James (founded in Leon 1170) to the King Ferdinand the Catholic of Spain in 1492.

I hope you found this ‘Jubilee Year 101’ interesting. You can read more about the Jubilee Year and Holy Door in Santiago by following this link by Marly Camino:

Madonna tad-Dawl

On the Wed Walk of 8th July we traversed the old parochial confines of the Zejtun to Zabbar close to the church of Our Lady of the Light (Madonna tad-Dawl).

It struck me as odd how a 17th century church was dedicated to Madonna tad-Dawl, a Marian devotion that did not take root in Malta as much as other better known Marian devotions and that reached Malta in the early to mid-18th century.

The church of Our Lady of the Light (Madonna tad-Dawl), on what were the 17th century parochial limits of Zejtun and Zabbar, was earlier dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. However, it appears that some time after the creation of the Zabbar parish in 1615 the church of St. John the Baptist on the Zejtun / Zabbar limits (il-Bidni) was deconsecrated by the church as it fell into disuse. A year before the creation of the Zabbar Parish by Bishop Baldassare Cagliares (1615) the South had suffered a devastating attack (albeit a pyrrhic victory for the Maltese and the knights). As a result, inhabitants moved away from some of the coastal areas in the South until these were better fortified between the reigns of Grandmaster Wignacourt and Grandmaster De Redin.

It was re-consecrated again as a church in the 1730s by Bishop Paul Alpheran de Bussan and in the 1750s it was dedicated to the Lady of the Light (Madonna tad-Dawl) when this Marian devotion reached our shores from Sicily. Although strong for a period of time, this particular devotion was relatively short-lived. The icon associated with this devotion – Mother Mary pulling a child away from the devil – is associated with a dream of a Sicilian Jesuit who then propagated this devotion of the Madonna as a Protector from evil.

There is one other church dedicated to Madonna tad-Dawl, i.e. in Zebbug on the confines of the village before descending into Wied Baqqiegha. This church, earlier known as tal-Qassis Nardu and dedicated to the Nativity, was re-consecrated as Madonna tad-Dawl in the 1730s also during the time of Bishop Paul Alpheran de Bussan.

The old parochial confines of Zejtun and Zabbar

We Strike Gold!

In the words of appreciation by Alberto Núñez Feijóo, President of the Autonomous Community of Galicia:

 The above is taken from his letter to the Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago – of which XirCammini is part – on being awarded the Casteleo Medal.

The Castelao Medal is awarded by the Galician Government to people and organisations in recognition of exceptional work they do from which the Galician region benefits.

Pilgrimage Tips from the Jacobean Council

The following is a translated excerpt from the latest meeting (25th June) of the Jacobean Council regarding re-commencing the Camino.

“The Executive Commission of the Jacobean Council held its second meeting on June 25 during the health crisis with the aim of preparing the Camino de Santiago before its re-activation in the “new normality”.

The importance of offering the pilgrim information on the new situation of the Camino de Santiago during the health crisis was one of the prevalent conclusions of the Commission.

To this end, we highlight:

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/consejo-jacobeo/en/para-el-peregrino.html

Recommendations for the Camino de Santiago during the health crisis COVID-19

The Jacobean Council includes in this section all the recommendations that may be useful for pilgrims and all agents of the Camino de Santiago during the health crisis with the aim of minimizing the risks of contagion. The fulfillment of all these recommendations will contribute to allow the continuity of the Camino during the duration of the pandemic.

It is necessary to take into account that, in the state of new normality, each Autonomous Community can establish its own rules regarding capacity restrictions, group activities, public transport, etc. which can be consulted in the links in the right column.

If you are thinking of doing the Camino, download these tips to help you on your pilgrimage:

Before Departing
On the Camino
Applicable to the Albergue

Conclusion

Where in doubt please always err on the side of prudence. The Camino has been with us for centuries and will be with us after this episode. Life is more fragile.

Buen Camino.

Changes to Home Page

On the homepage we have added 2 ‘quick-link’ icon. One is the Logo of the Associations of the Way of St James and the other to the Universal Peace Walk.

Associations of the Way of St. James

XirCammini is proud to announce its corroboration with the Associations of Friends of the Way of St. James, joining the ranks of over 150 Camino associations emanating from all 5 continents and committed to servicing the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

You can find us by typing in Malta on the directory of the Association of the Friends of the Way:

https://www.caminodesantiago.gal/en/discover/associations-of-the-way/directory-of-associations

The Associations of the Friends of the Way of St. James know their beginning in 1950. It was first founded in Paris by a group of historians of art, archivists and specialists in medieval literature; all eager to propagate the long history of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, its manifestations and the role it had played in the evolution of Europe.

Read more about this either by clicking the link on our home page or here:

https://xircammini.org/friends-of-the-way-malta/

Universal Peace Walk 1543 AD

A date has been set for Sunday 22nd November 2020, which is the weekend closest to the winter feast of Saint Catherine since the walk ends in the old parish church of Casale Sta. Katerina (present-day Zejtun).

We will continue to update this link with the latest news and announcements as we approach the event.

Life is a journey | keep walking | Keep smiling | Keep safe.

Be Kind and Respectful: Always | With Everyone | Everywhere

As the first wave of the pandemic that swept swiftly across the globe starts to subside at home, directives start to lift.

That does not mean that we do not need to remain cautious. Every hiker, runner, climber and cyclist knows that a descent can be more treacherous than an incline. Therefore, also as we ‘exit’ the 1st Covid-19 phase we have to do so with care.

In this piece, we will continue to update you on travel, trekking and XirCammini developments as we re-emerge from Covid-19.

Victoria Lines

Local Trekking

We have resumed the Wed Walks (our weekly evening walk appointment) and the turnout was encouraging.

People who join us are being asked to follow 6 simple rules relating to health, hygiene and social distancing in line with Health Authority Directives (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-8/ “Local Trekking | Health Directives”)

On Wed 10th June, we walked a South loop (from Xarolla through Ħal Millieri to Providenza, linking back to Zurrieq through Maqluba and tal-Ħniena Sanctuary). The camaraderie and the general atmosphere were incredibly positive.

On Wed 10th June, we walked a South loop (from Xarolla through Ħal Millieri to Providenza, linking back to Zurrieq through Maqluba and tal-Ħniena Sanctuary). The camaraderie and the general atmosphere were incredibly positive.

On Fri 12th June, we walked a West loop (from Bidnija through Zebbiegh to the Bingemma church, linking back to Bidnija through Dwejra and the valley). Again, there was such a positive spirit.

This Wednesday, 17th June we will walk the “Matrici tal-Majjitral” an Mdina – Girgenti loop through the ancient western parishes (Mdina, Zebbug and Siggiewi) listed in the Rollo de Mello 1436.

Beyond Siggiewi (were the parishes of the South: Zurrieq, Bir Miftuh, now Gudja and Casale Sta. Katerina, now Zejtun). The remaining Rollo De Mello parishes were the Mellieha sanctuary to the Northwest, Qormi, Naxxar, Birkirkara, San Lorenzo del Mare (Birgu) and Hal Tartani. Hal Tartani and Mellieha subsequently lost their parish status to be then reinstated some centuries later. Our walk will only pass through the 3 western matriarchal parishes. All of these old parishes (and some others that followed) are referred to as ‘Matrici’ because from them other parishes emerged.

Wed Walk 10th June

Overseas Trekking | Flight Status

All our overseas trekking experiences until the end of September have been cancelled. All deposits collected towards accommodation etc for all overseas treks until the end of 2020 were promptly refunded. We thank overseas trekking associations, NGOs and micro-0rganisations that we collaborate with overseas for their assistance.

Malta has announced a ‘safe corridor’ with various countries and travel will shortly resume. However this does not mean that we can start planning overseas trips. Why? Because some of these countries still have quarantine regulations and or other prohibitive measures in place which do not make it feasible for us to plan trips for the foreseeable future.

It is likely that by mid-August such restrictions to these countries (and more) would have been lifted. However, it is better to plan trips when one has more certainty on flights, destinations, quarantine procedures, accommodation and local transport arrangements etc. A time will come when we can again travel and trek together overseas. Until then we’ll continue with the local activities and continue monitoring the overseas situation in the various countries where we trek.

At the time of writing this piece it is still being recommended by authorities in Spain not to rush and wait until all sectors of the Camino are again open before considering a Camino in Spain. The same applies to other countries. We are constantly monitoring this and will keep members informed.

Cancelled overseas treks, 2020

Famous last Words:

Be Kind and Respectful: Always | With Everyone | Everywhere

Situations (not least Covid-19) can bring out the best or the worst in people.

It is not a secret that – petty as it may sound – unhealthy, albeit petty, rivalry unfortunately also exists among local trekking groups. But, I am concluding this piece with this point because it was raised with me during one of our recent walks.

At XirCammini we welcome anyone who shares our passion for hiking. No questions asked.  Our non-exclusive nature is enshrined on our statute. whether one

  1. walks with us and also walks with other groups,
  2. walks with us and does not walk with other groups or
  3. does not walk with us but walks with other groups

makes no difference.

Everyone is welcomed and / or respected as long as one is always respectful towards others.

We walk together because of the physical, psychological, social and intellectual benefits of this collective pastime. We walk together because so many barriers dissolve and impasses dissipate when we share the road together. A word, a joke, a gesture and even shared silence serve to uplift us.

Let us be kind and respectful always, with everyone everywhere as we share the road and our experiences with fellow-hikers without expecting anything in return. Be grateful, always and everywhere, in the blessing of a shared journey.

Life’s a Journey | Keep Walking | Keep Smiling | Keep Safe.

Life is Fragile; the Camino Eternal.

The Camino has been with us for centuries and will be with us when Covid-19 is over. Our life is more fragile. We can wait out this episode in our life and walk the Camino again when it is safer and more feasible to do so.

The Jacobean Council recommends not doing the Camino de Santiago until all its sections are in the so-called new normality.

Mobility is one of the most complex aspects of de-escalation due to its direct relationship with the probability of contagion.

https://mailchi.mp/8a3b8e3be429/boletn-sobre-el-camino-de-santiago-ante-la-situacin-de-emergencia-sanitaria-7985884?e=4c9d2279c8