12th March 1543 AD: Universal Peace Walk


On the then feast of St. Gregory in 1543 Bishop Domenico Cubelles instituted a peace walk, Pro Pace Universali, at a time when Europe, the old world, was in the throes of war.

The cammino was from the old city, Mdina or Citta Notabile to the Southern most parish known as le Terre di Santa Caterina, or Casale Santa Caterina (current day Zejtun); a 28km procession.

There was an order of precedence to the procession. The Cathedral chapter stood at the back and the newest parish stood at the front. According to the 1436 Rollo de Mello, Malta had ten parishes being Naxxar, Birkirkara, Qormi, Bir Miftuh, Żebbug, Siġġiewi, Żejtun, Żurrieq, Hal Tartani and Mellieha. In addition to these parishes there were other populated areas with their churches and communities such as the inner harbour area, Rabat, Ghaxaq (a suburb of the terre di Santa Caterina) and Zabbar (the sub-parish of St. James which was also part of the Zejtun parish). Furthermore there were the confraternities of lay people, among them the one of Santa Maria (Attard) started during the reign of Bishop Giacomo Valquarena and the one of St. Joseph in Rabat which preceded that of Attard. There were also confraternities of friars most of whom had convents in or around Rabat. Malta, then also had Greek Christian churches. All of these took part on the Universal Peace Walk, all carrying their crosses and banners.

Guns were fired in Mdina signalling the start of the walk in the morning.

Giovanni Franceso Abela (1582–1655) writes about this Cammino in his book Della Descrittione Di Malta. The procession is again mentioned in 1847. By then the number of parishes had increased substantially and some were also elevated to collegiate churches which altered the order of precedence on this Cammino. Zerafa also mentions the hymns that were sung during the procession. Also, the structure of the Cammino changed with parishes meeting in Marsa and continuing towards Zejtun.

Later books, such as the 20th century autobiography of Ganado, Rajt Malta Tinbidel,  also mentions the procession. This once grand and historic Cammino, a part of Maltese heritage is being reintroduced by Maltese hiking NGO, XirCammini on its original anniversary date, 12th March. With the help of Malta Tourism Authority, XirCammini will be engaging with local councils enroute to instal permanent waymarks. A dedicated website with relevant information www.universalpeacewalk.mt has been rolled out in beta format.

More information is available from XirCammini (information@XirCammini.org)

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:

P59 Zurrieq – Hal Millieri – Providenza – San Niklaw – Maqluba – Tal-Hniena Loop

We’ll meet next to the Xarolla Windmill, Zurrieq (Google Maps: RFJJ+P7 Zurrieq, Malta) .

The walk starts at 7:30 p.m. (please be there there before). We walk  to Hal Millieri (Lunzjata and San Gwann Medieval Chapels) and through Mqabba / Qrendi to Sta Maria Hal Xluq and Tal-Providenza Chapel. From the Providenza Chapel we’ll continue to the medieval church of San Nilaw (medieval hamlet of San Niklusi), and onward to San Mattew (Maqluba; medieval hamlet of Hal Lew) and Santwarju Madonna tal-Hniena looping through Zurrieq village core and Carmel Str to the Xarolla Windmill.

We kindly request all those intending to join us to follow the 6 health rules we listed in https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-8/ under “Local Trekking | Health Directives”.

It is a 10km to 12km walk. It is advisable that you have sensible walking / trekking  shoes and some water and also a light. Please also wear a smile. It suits you. 🙂 This is not a power walk but we do try to maintain a brisk pace.

Tóchar Pádraig, County Mayo (XirCammini, Irish Caminos, Aug & Sept 2019)

XirCammini walked the Irish Caminos in August 2019 consisting of (a.) St. Kevin’s in County Wicklow, (b.) St. Finbarr’s in County Cork, (c.) Cnoc na dTobar in County Kerry, (d.) Cosán na Naomh in the Dingle Peninsula and (e.) Tóchar Pádraig in County Mayo.

Any one interested to learn more about our treks please drop us an email on information@XirCammini.org | or join our community on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/groups/345359409704852/ | or follow us on our Facebook Page ‘XirCammini’: https://www.facebook.com/XirCammini/?view_public_for=2202460050021157

This is the fifth piece of a five-part series on the Celtic Saints commemorated on the Irish Caminos.

It has been a few weeks since we returned home from Ireland but I still catch myself repeating the words of Fr. Frank Fahey, “Light a candle before you go, include strangers in your group and no complaining.”

To these basic principles we also included “travel light” and “help fellow pilgrims” as 61 Maltese walked the Irish Caminos in August and September, ending with the St. Patrick’s Path from Ballintubber to Croagh Patrick.

The Tóchar Pádraig commences from Ballintubber Abbey, following an ancient road from this seat of the Kings of Connaught and ends in Croagh Padraig in County Mayo. The walk is graded as ‘moderate’ but one is to expect wet underfoot conditions in places in what is arguably a relatively exacting environment.   Raingear, trekking boots and warm clothing is generally required. In August County Mayo experiences temperature highs of 16ºC with a 35% to 40% chance of rain. 

In pre-Christian times a pagan pilgrimage route preceded Tóchar Pádraig on what used to be a Chariot road.

The route offers historical and natural perspectives with the Abbey, Creevagh Well, Clareen River, Patrick’s Chair, the Aghagower, St.Patrick’s Well, Peter’s Stone, Loch na Corra and more.

Part Five: St. Patrick, Ballintubber and Croagh Padraig [County Mayo]

The name Ballintubber or Ballintober is derived from Baile Tobair Phádraig , meaning the place of St. Patrick’s well. Creevagh well is situated relatively close to the Augustinian Abbey and is said to be where St. Patrick baptized people in their hundreds after he founded his church. Although the walk is typically from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Padraig, legend has it that St. Patrick fasted for 40 days on Croagh Padraig and then travelled to where the abbey is today to found his church.

Although St. Patrick founded his church in the mid-5th century AD (i.e. around 150 years before St. Augustine brought Roman Catholicism to the British Isles and founded his church in Canterbury), the current Abbey was founded as an Augustinian Abbey by the King of Connacht in 1216 and has had an 800-year old history through Henry VIII, penal laws, Cromwellian persecution, priest hunters, confiscation of land and revival some 20 years ago.

XirCammini Treks

This trek was truly invigorating physically as well as spiritually. Furthermore, there is nothing that beats exercise in fresh air in the company of friends for our well-being. We started from Ballintubber Abbey undertaking a linear, mostly easy to moderate trail with slight inclines and declines mainly through wet land until reaching Ahagower. From there onwards to Croagh Pádraig we went through fields, road and a Bronze Age site where – later – St. Patrick is said to have preached. Adding the walk from and to town to the hill the overall length would be of around 35 km.

While this year’s XirCammini Irish Caminos are fully subscribed, we look forward to hearing from you if you are interested in joining either XirCammini as a member, another one of our treks this year or the Irish Caminos in 2020. Anyone wishing to join us from overseas, arrangements can be made for us to meet at destination prior to commencing a trek.

XirCammini is a NGO registered as Members’ Association with the Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations, Malta (VO No: 1646). Contact details:

information@XirCammini.org | www.XirCammini.org | https://www.facebook.com/groups/345359409704852/