PC #63 – Who owns the Camino?

This might be a provocative blog for some –

I ask the question: Who owns the Camino? 

I ask this question because the Camino de Santiago is often described as a Catholic pilgrimage. Does the Catholic Church lay claim to the Camino?

Certainly Spain is a predominately Catholic country, and the majority of pilgrims who collect their Composetla are Spanish.

But does the Catholic Church have a franchise from God to run the Camino?

I thought the people who walked the Camino owned the Camino. Irrespective of faith or belief.

I will now quickly climb into my bomb shelter and await your response…


29 thoughts on “PC #63 – Who owns the Camino?

    • I’m totally with you, Steve, and thought it was a … strange (if that’s the right word) question to pose; but then, of course we all realise now that Bill has a whacky sense of humour and that he likes to stir up the world! A bit like the (Australian) aboriginal thinking; how can you own something so esoteric as a ‘place’. As has been established over and over again, every perigrino is different, has a different journey and much as many people walking classify themselves as ‘pilgrims’, I never thought that concept belonged just to the Catholic church; possibly my mistake? Will follow the replies with interest!! 🙂


  1. Bill –

    You are either completely crazy or extraordinarily brave. I am more sympathetic to the former view.

    I’m Catholic. Not a “good” one; but I’m still “practicing”. During my Camino I had the wonderful experience of being “not Catholic enough” fro some, “Too Catholic” for others while still being well accepted by Buddhists, atheists, agnostics and the wonderfully, spiritually confused.

    Ask the question if you will but I believe that it is nonsensical. The Camino has been pagan, Druid (slightly “up” from pagan”), Christian and yet, it now calls many from a wide diversity of faiths or “non”.

    People are called because of their own relationship to the Divine. Counterpoint: Any hierarchical organization will try to protect its franchise.

    Beyond that, what is to explain?

    Let us not sow a divisive element where so many of us have found a thread of unity.



  2. I wonder if it isn’t a combination of the Spanish government, the inhabitants, the walkers, and the Catholic Church who ‘own’ it — *IF* it’s ‘owned’ by anyone. The government as well as the inhabitants along the way make it what it is physically (albergues, restos, bars, the upkeep and improvements of the walk-way, etc). The walkers provide much of the financial means for the inhabitants to live and do their part. All contribute to the spirituality. It seems there is a realization that it is something all people have a right to, not just Catholics.


  3. Of course nobody really “owns” the whole camino. However, the entity of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela surely belongs to the Catholic church as much as it can belong to anything. I am not Catholic, but during my partial camino last year (Astorga to Santiago) I always felt that I was a welcome guest on a historic Catholic pilgrimage.

    By the way, I’ve been lurking for awhile but couldn’t quite think of anything to say that wouldn’t get me into trouble. I’ve hung around because I think Sister Simon Clare has such an excellent name.


    • Thank you for coming out of your “lurking!”

      And if you’re not wanting to get into trouble, then you’ve certainly chosen a blog post that has that very real potential!!


      Spain is a Catholic country. The churches you visit along the way are all Catholic churches. The Cathedral at Santiago is a Catholic Cathedral.

      But it is one God.



  4. The Camino de Santiago can be said to belong to the Catholic Church, but one must understand here that the term “Catholic Church” in this case refers to the Mystical Body of Christ, and not to the earthly Church.

    The Catholic Church has never, so far as I know, laid claim to any material ownership of the Camino, and I think that such a claim would be absurd — for a host of reasons !!!

    To start with, even in its most Catholic manifestation, the Camino starts and ends at each individual parish altar in the world, with the Tomb of the Apostle as the half-way mark, so that to claim material ownership of the Camino would essentially constitute claiming material ownership of the whole world. Erm. No !!!

    Furthermore, the Camino is traditionally understood as a Path of Conversion, including during the Middle Ages of Penitential/Judiciary Conversion of the wicked and the sinners, so that it has ALWAYS been a Pilgrim’s Way for good Catholics, bad Catholics, and non-Catholics alike. One cannot help but walk towards the Tomb of the Apostle as one advances on the Camino, so that every pilgrim, knowingly or otherwise, is internally disposed towards at least the possibility of such Conversion, whether the pilgrim should pay attention to that possibility or not. This is why all pilgrims who die whilst on pilgrimage to Santiago are considered to have died in a particular state of Grace.

    Finally, Saint James’ own Pilgrimage to Spain was a journey of Evangelisation in the first place, so that even in the deepest and most Catholic understanding of the nature of both the Camino and the Catholic Christian pilgrimage to Compostela, the Camino is religiously provided for everyone, Catholic and otherwise. As is its “ownership”.


  5. “Today I am open to the presence of miracles.” just as I was each day on the Camino. And miracles flowed and as I surrendered to the Camino… we became one… so if anything- we owned each other and mingled our energy with the millions of pilgrims, past and present and future. Ingrid


    • Beautifully said too, Ingrid.

      I told everyone at the dinner table one night early on my Camino that at some stage during our walk, we would meet an angel. We might not know it for years later though…



          • Really! I called them that, cause they were Irish Wanderers who I walked with one dark early, rainy morning. It was the only time I felt weird and put distance between us as we walked. To not ever seeing them again… so, who were they, why at the time I ventured out, hadn’t seen them the evening before in albergue, why from smiling to frowning and worrying. If you are talking about fear in some form, that was the day I felt some. Biggest lesson of listening to my inner voice (or as you call it PGS) and trusting in the Camino… I sure was glad and thankful as the dawn broke and they faded into the distance. Foolish, foolish decision I made that morning. Still have hairs standing on end remembering now. Ingrid


      • at some stage during our walk, we would meet an angel

        Three, here — and I went towards them, in Heaven ; one big reason I think God has been so forthcoming with me … ;o)


      • Personal divine interventions (including about three weeks non-stop of God basically shaking me like an idiot on the Camino in ’94 until I simply had to give up and accept Him because continuing to doubt him would have been the acme of irrationality), my Conversion, one Apparition of the Virgin Mary, one weird one I don’t understand and likely never will, in this life– and nearly ALL of them occurring in outside material reality. And COUNTLESS “little” things that as far as I can tell from your forum most would consider as being major incidents in their lives.

        Possibly one brief bilocation.

        And I’ve met the Devil (well, people possessed by him) at least three times.

        No words nor messages from Heaven, though (sorry, not everyone can be Bernadette Soubirous nor Catherine Anne Emmerich, for which I’m sometimes quite grateful), nor any user’s manual from Heaven.

        (though I have had the experience of being conscious during an entire logical re-wiring of my brain as a consequence of the Camino and my Conversion, which is likely to be the strangest purely psycho-whatever phenomenon I’ll ever experience this side of death — takes about 6 hours flat BTW to completely change the human brain’s “Operating System”)

        Perhaps the one that freaked me out most though — was when I first read the Bible. In Latin. Alone, simply on the basis of what I learned on that Camino. Coming to my own logical conclusions. Reading it my way. NO indoctrination. NO teaching. NOBODY telling me how to think, just God having shown me a little of what is True. Looking at it via the prism of Comparative Mythology, modern literary theory, the remains of my agnosticism, from the views of various competing religions, Mediaeval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, Modern philosophy thought and criticism, atheism, modern politics, and positivist materialism — and then, at the end, shockingly, completely independently producing the exact contents of orthodox Catholic doctrine.

        I _invented_ my own personal interpretation of the Bible, but it turned out that there is NO difference between this interpretation and the Doctrine of the Church.

        This is a complete interpretative impossibility (!!!), it is impossible for an independent literary interpretation to spontaneously agree in such minute detail with a corpus of 2000 years’ worth of interpretation of a collection of Holy texts that is itself extremely complex and written over the course of at least 1500 years, and yet it still happened anyway.

        Impossible, except for God.

        HE knew EXACTLY what He had to show me in ’94, EXACTLY what I had to see with my own eyes so that on the basis of the shape and contents of my mind, that reading would lead me straight to the Truth.

        A Power that can do such a thing, without ANY coercion, but simply showing me this and that and the other to lead me inexorably and of my own free volition and by my own totally independent powers of reason to the very EXACTITUDE of the Catholic Doctrine is nothing less than the very Revelation of God. Nothing less than the plenitude of all Paternal Love and Solicitude.

        I can’t expect anyone to believe this, I would certainly NOT believe it myself if I weren’t the one it had happened to.

        I’m like St. Thomas — I needed to touch and see before I could believe ; and for my sins, He has shown me.


        • Julian, I think the experience of Grace is one of the most unique and astonishing personal miracles one can have. As you say, God knows what each of us need , to finally see and believe, so those experiences are as unique and mindbending as we are. I don’t find yours hard to believe, at all. I’ve been hugely priveleged over the years to hear many Grace experiences, and almost all have that element of ‘nobody would ever believe this ‘ God is such a Wonder -provocateur, comforter, challenger,bringer of the purest awe,, and joy!


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