The Document Of The Holy See On:
“Pilgrimage 2000”

By: Prof. Dr. Adalbert Rebic, 1999

On April 25, 1998, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People published a document about Pilgrimage in the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 (herein referred to as the Document 'Pilgrimage 2000'). The title of the Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' itself emphasizes the reason for its publication. It is the imminent Great Jubilee of the 2000th year of Christ's birth. "A fundamental goal of the present historical pilgrimage of the Church is the Jubilee of the Year 2000 towards which the faithful are walking beneath the vault of the Trinity." For the Great Jubilee numerous pilgrimages are being prepared, mainly to the Holy Land (Jerusalem and Bethlehem) and to Rome. Pilgrimages of the Great Jubilee are intended to be at the service of deepening spirituality and of more fruitful pastoral ministry.

Pilgrimage has always occupied an important place in the life of Christians, as well as in the life of all the faithful. "In the course of history, Christians have always walked to celebrate their faith in places that indicate a memory of the Lord or in sites representing important moments in the history of the Church. They have come to shrines honouring the Mother of God and to those that keep alive the example of the saints. Their pilgrimage was a process of conversion, a yearning for intimacy with God and a trusting plea for their material needs. For the Church, pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace."

Especially today, pilgrimages are a favourite devotion of the faithful. Contemporary society is marked with intense movement. That is, people like to be in motion. In their travel they relax, they get personally acquainted; they get to know new places and new people and, in this way, are in many ways enriched. Thanks to modern means, today the faithful travel far away from their own country to the Holy Land, to the Marian Sanctuaries at Lourdes, Fatima, Czestochowa or to other places either in the world or in their own country. It is for this reason that, in regard to pilgrimages, the pastoral care must have clear theological foundations to justify it and develop it into a solid and enduring practice in the context of general pastoral care. Finally, it is evangelisation, the deepening of faith and the spiritual life, that is one of the primary goals for which the Church proposes and encourages pilgrimages.

The Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' is a theological analysis about the meaning of pilgrimages, giving pastoral direction on how to organize and lead pilgrimages. In this sense, it is a providential document for the faithful, particularly for those who are responsible for pastoral ministry to the faithful. In it, they will find valuable spiritual assistance for a more profound and more intense experiencing of the Great Jubilee. The Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' is intended "to offer an aid to all pilgrims and people in charge of the pastoral care of pilgrimages, so that in the light of the Word of God and of the age-old tradition of the Church, everyone may share more fully in the spiritual wealth found in the experience of pilgrimages."

The aim of the document 'Pilgrimage 2000' of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants is to give spiritual meaning to the pilgrimages, which pastoral care givers are organizing in the course of the Great Jubilee Year 2000. Its aim is to bond pilgrimages firmly with the reality of penance and conversion: a pilgrimage is an opportunity and a motive for the faithful to be spiritually edified, to deepen his religious life and to aim his life's path toward God.

The Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' has six parts, an introduction and a conclusion. In the Introduction (n. 5-6), the motive and aim of 'Pilgrimage 2000' are emphasized, and the Conclusion theologically encompasses the contents of 'Pilgrimage 2000' (n. 57-58). In Part I, the Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' describes the Pilgrimage of Israel (n.7-12); in Part II, the Pilgrimage of Christ (n. 13-16); in Part III, the Pilgrimage of the Church (n. 17-25); in Part IV, the Pilgrimage Toward the Third Millennium (n. 26-31); in Part V, the Pilgrimage of Mankind (n. 32-39) and at the end in Part VI, the Pilgrimage making of Christians today (n. 39-56). 'Pilgrimage 2000' is a condensed theology of pilgrimage. It holds all 58 pages in pocket-book format, is written in an easy style and can be read without difficulty.

Pilgrimage is not only a Christian phenomenon but is found in all religions. "Pilgrimage symbolizes the experience of man as a traveller, (homo viator) who sets out, as soon as he leaves the maternal womb, on his journey through the time and space of his existence." A pilgrimage is the journey of a believer to a holy place, which has been consecrated by the manifestation of some deity, or the activity of some religious teacher or the founder of a religion, with the intention of praying and offering sacrifice there. As such, it is a specific experience of faith and a phenomenon connected with all religions, and in existence ever since religions exist. At the holy site a shrine is ordinarily erected in which and around which the faithful gather. Such a holy site can be in or outside the pilgrim's country, sometimes very far away. The goal of making a pilgrimage is ordinarily the attainment of some material or spiritual good, which, according to the belief of the pilgrim, can be obtained precisely at that holy place. Pilgrimage by its very nature is ordinarily connected with sacrifice and self-denial. And the good, namely, the grace which the pilgrim receives at the holy site, is precisely the reward for such an executed effort. The good things that are sought can be very diverse and range from the healing of some illness to the attainment of eternal life.

Making pilgrimage is a very favoured practice in the devout world, because: 1st, it engages all human capabilities (audio-visual, motor, emotional); 2nd, it highlights and deepens the mutual bonds that are a very important factor in religious emotions; 3rd, it stresses the value and prolongs remembrance of the religious events that are connected with the place; 4th, it strengthens the international, social, cultural, and civilizing bonds that surpass the boundaries of a nation or even of a race. On their long journey pilgrims pause, sell, buy, exchange material and spiritual goods, get acquainted with the cultural values of the people in whose midst they have come as strangers (Latin peregrini) and through whose midst they have passed. That is why the making of pilgrimage as such appears relatively late in the history of religion, then, namely, when there is already established a certain advancement in social relations (family, clan, tribe, nation, state, roads, shrines, and the like).

The history of the chosen people in the Old Testament is in fact a magnificent pilgrimage on the paths of faith: the exodus from Egypt, the Passover through the Red Sea, the journey through the desert, the trials and sin, the entrance into the promised land, the march into the Babylonian exile and the return from it to the old homeland. Three times a year, namely, for the high holy days of Passover (Pesach), the Feast of Weeks (Shavuoth), and Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), the Israelites made pilgrimage to the holy city Jerusalem. Mohamed was inspired by the practice Jewish and Christian pilgrimage and commanded Moslems: "Make pilgrimage and visit the holy places out of love toward God!" (Koran II, 196). Every year millions and millions of Moslems make pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Pilgrimage is even one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.

The followers of Hinduism make pilgrimage to the River Ganges, the holy river, their "mother", which cleanses them from sin. Buddhists make pilgrimage to places that Buddha consecrated by his life. Shintoists go into deep forests and meditate in silence in the thicket. Christians, on the other hand, go to the holy places where God revealed Himself or that are connected with the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and of His saints.

Pilgrimage is differentiated from tourism: Tourism is an escape from one's own everyday life into something unusual, out of the ordinary, entertaining, whereas pilgrimage is a journey toward a definite goal, a journey rich in symbolism. A pilgrim travels toward a shrine as to "the house of the Lord" that is, toward the symbolic house of the Lord which, expressed in mythical language, is in Heaven. Thus, symbolism is the specific element that distinguishes pilgrimage from tourism. A symbol is thing containing two truths: one on the level of reality and the other on the level of the conveyed meaning. Three pieces of cloth - red, white and blue in colour - are an ordinary object with its own definite meaning and purpose. But when they are put together into a single whole unit, they then become a red, white and blue flag, as the symbol of a state and of a people. A pilgrimage is a symbolic act: a symbolic journey toward God. "O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my souls is thirsting for you like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory." (Ps 63, 2-3) For those who believe, life is a journey, a pilgrimage. Their life is firmly anchored in reality, that is, in history, but at the same time, it is a journey, a pilgrimage toward salvation.

In the Part I the Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' (n. 4-8), explains the Pilgrimage of Israel beginning with Adam's pilgrimage, continues explaining the meaning of Abraham's pilgrimage and of the pilgrimage of the chosen people of the Old Testament with the Exodus from Egypt, the journey through the desert and finally the entry into the Promised Land. The Exodus from Egypt acquired a permanent value. It became a memorial (Hebrew zikkaron, Latin memoriale). It is always alive among the people and is repeated in the return from the Babylonian captivity which Second Isaiah celebrated in song as a new exodus (cf. Is 43,16-21) which the Israelites celebrate at every Feast of Passover ["passage"] and which in the book of Wisdom is transformed into an eschatological reality (cf. Wis 11-19). The final goal of such a journey of faith is the "promised land" of full communion with God in the new creation (cf. Wis 19).

The devout believer of the Old Testament presents himself before God as "a wayfarer and a pilgrim" (Ps 39,13; 119,19). The Israelites went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to holy Zion, singing joyful hymns, the "Psalms of Ascent" (Ps 120-134). They had an experience with God as the pilgrim who forever walks with His people. The God of Israel is not bound to one definite place, as the pagan gods were. Instead, He travelled with His people and is present at every place. In their proclamations "the prophets also indicate a Messianic pilgrimage of redemption, which is also open to the eschatological horizon in which all the peoples of the earth will stream toward Zion, the location of the divine Word, of peace and hope"(cf. Is 2,2-4; 56, 6-8; 66,18-23; Mih 4,1-4; Zac 8,20-23). The goal of this universal movement of the people is the common "banquet for all the nations" at the end of history (Is 25,6).

In Part II of 'Pilgrimage 2000', Christ's Pilgrimage is explained. Jesus is presented as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (cf. Jn 14,6) and by His incarnation and birth from the Virgin, He sets out on the way of His people and of all mankind "uniting Himself in some way with each man." Jesus not only shows the way on which one must walk to God, but He Himself walks that way. He in Himself is the way to God. Still a boy He goes on pilgrimage with His parents to Jerusalem, to the Temple. His public ministry gradually takes shape as a continuous pilgrimage from Galilee, through Samaria to Judea to Jerusalem, where He will be crucified. The Evangelist Luke describes Jesus' activity as "a long journey whose destination is not only the cross, but also the glory of Easter and of the Ascension"(cf. Lk 9, 51; 24,51). Luke presents the death of Jesus in the transfiguration on the mountain as an "exodus"(Greek exodos). Jesus calls His disciples to follow Him: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. . ." (Mt 16,24).

The disciples of Jesus, more spiritualised and animated by the Holy Spirit at the Feast of Pentecost, go out into the streets of the world, thus being immersed in the various nations of the earth, going from Jerusalem up to Rome, proclaiming everywhere the Gospel of Christ.

"The final destination of this pilgrimage along the roads of the world, however, is not written on the map of the earth. It is beyond our horizon, as it was for Christ who walked with the people to bring them to the fullness of communion with God." It is significant to observe that the Acts of the Apostles defines the Christian life as "the way" par excellence. (Acts 2,28; 9,2; 16,17; 18,25-26 and elsewhere.) The Christian life is presented as a pilgrimage toward the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelations), a pilgrimage that has a transcendent end. The Christian is aware that here on earth he is a "traveller", an "alien or foreign visitor" , his "homeland is in heaven".

In Part III the document 'Pilgrimage 2000' explains the Pilgrimage of the Church (n. 12-17). The Church also, the messianic People of God in on the way toward a future and lasting city. The missionaries of Christ passed through all the important Roman roads, caravan tracks and maritime routes; they encountered various languages and cultures, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ: from Asia Minor to Italy, from Africa to Spain and Gaul and later on from Germany to Britain, from the Slavic countries up to India and China. In modern times, they continued toward new countries and new peoples in America, Africa and Oceania, thus delineating "the journey of Christ down the centuries.

In the fourth and fifth centuries, there appears in the Church the monastic movement: "ascetic migration" and "spiritual exodus". Devout people go into the desert and there reflect on the experience of Abraham, of a stranger and a guest, the figure of Moses who guides the people out of Egypt and leads them to the Promised Land, as well as Elijah, who meets God on Mt. Carmel. At that time, St. Jerome and his disciples, Paula and Eustochium, set out to the Holy Land. They settled in Bethlehem, close to the grotto of the Birth of Jesus. They founded monasteries, lauras, hermitages and coenobia in the desert of Judea and outside of the Holy Land in Syria, Cappadocia, Thebaid and Egypt. St. Jerome and other holy fathers call Christians to go on pilgrimages to holy sites but also warn of over-exaggeration, misunderstandings and misconceptions. Gregory of Nyssa, in particular, warns the pilgrim that "the true journey to be experienced is the one that leads the faithful from the physical reality to the spiritual one, from corporeal life to life in the Lord and not the trip from Cappadocia to Palestine." St. Augustine advises: "Go back into yourself: the truth lives in the person's heart! ... Go beyond your very self!" St. Jerome also warns against formalistic comprehension of making a pilgrimage.

When the Arabs conquered the Holy Land in 638, making the visit of the Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land more difficult, new itineraries in the West were opened: to Rome ("Ways to the See of Peter"), to St. James in Compostela, to the Marian Sanctuary in Lourdes, to Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, to the great medieval monasteries, fortresses of spirit and culture; to places that embody the memory of great saints (Tours, Canterbury, Padua and other places.

In the middle ages we face a great wave of pilgrimages in all directions of Europe and the world, although with some excesses. These pilgrimages nourished spirituality, increased faith, stimulated charity and animated the mission of the Church. "The 'palmer', the 'pilgrim to Rome' and the 'pilgrims' with their specific attires almost constituted some separate order that reminded the world of the pilgrim nature of the Christian community which tends toward a meeting with God and communion with him."

Also, a special form of pilgrimage is the Crusader movement, which appeared between the 11th and the 13th centuries. In that movement "the ancient religious ideal of going on pilgrimage to the holy places in the Holy Land" was mixed with the new ideas, with the formation of an order of knights, with its social and political aspirations, the awakening of commercial and cultural revolts aimed toward the East, where Islam was present in the Holy Land.

In the 13th century, there appears St. Francis who with his brother Franciscans goes to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem. They will to this very day be the custodians of the holy places in Palestine and beyond in the Near East (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt). About the year 1300, a Society of Pilgrims for Christ was established. At that time, the Jubilee was proclaimed for the first time in Rome, drawing thousands of pilgrims to Rome. The pilgrimages to Rome thus took place in the successive long series of Holy Years. In this way, Rome became the cultural and religious centre of Western Europe.

In the 15th and 16th century, with the discovery of the New World, the eurocentric vision is overcome and the Christianity of the West was divided by conflicts, thus losing its unity, cantered in Rome. Alternative pilgrimage sites came about, such as numerous Marian shrines. Nonetheless, in the 18th and 19th century, pilgrimages continued in the life of the Christian community which sustained the faith of the believers from generation to generation, opening new spirituality with new centres of faith (Guadalupe, Lourdes, Aparecida, Fatima ...). Meanwhile, the renewed awareness of being the travelling people of God became a very expressive image of the Church assembled at the Second Vatican Council.

In the Part IV The Preparation for the Great Jubilee of 2000 is set out (n. 18-23). In that context, pilgrimage has an exceptionally great meaning. Already the event of the Second Vatican Council itself was, in a symbolic sense, a great and choral pilgrimage of the entire ecclesial community. The Council came about as a spiritual ascension. The Council Fathers greeted the people of thought as "pilgrims en route to the light". The symbolic image of the pilgrim Church was explained to the pilgrims by two pilgrim Popes, John XXIII to Loreto at the beginning of the Council (1962) and Paul VI to the Holy Land toward the end of the Council (1964). After that followed also the numerous pilgrimages of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. The pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land, by which he intended to celebrate the central mysteries of the faith, the Incarnation and the Redemption, inspired a new wave of pilgrimages to the Holy Land from all parts of the world. Through his travels, Pope John Paul II gave an exceptional momentum to pilgrimage as a practice of prayer, conversion and consecration as the Pilgrim People of God.

Vatican Council II in its Constitutions presented the Church as 'a traveller' "present in this world and yet not at home in it", repeatedly highlighting the pilgrim nature of the Church: she has her source in the mission of Christ whom the Father sent, we come from Him, we live through Him and our journey is directed toward Him, and the Holy Spirit guides our ways which follow the footsteps of Christ. The Council itself defines Christian life itself as a pilgrimage in faith.

The Church is missionary by its very nature. The command of the risen Christ: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations!"(Mt 28,19) places its stress precisely on the verb "go", the indispensable method of evangelisation offered to the world.

A fundamental goal of the present historical pilgrimage of the Church is the Jubilee of the Year 2000 toward which the faithful is walking beneath the vault of the Most Holy Trinity. This journey needs to be interior and vital rather than spatial.

In Part V (n. 24-31) the Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' interprets the Pilgrimage of Mankind, stressing the spiritual value of pilgrimage and the need for pastoral activity in making pilgrimages. Also in our time humanity is travelling and man feels like a traveller (homo viator) - and is seeking truth, justice, peace and love. He is moving toward the absolute and the infinite, toward God. The movement of mankind in itself contains the "germ of a fundamental desire for transcendent horizon of truth, justice and peace. It gives witness to a restlessness which does not become still but in the infinite God, in the harbour where man can refresh himself from his anguish." On this journey, some of the steps forward are visible: the respect for human rights, the advancement of science and technology, interreligious dialogue... We are witnesses of massive movements of entire nations who desire to flee the dangers of war or natural disasters in their countries or seek a greater security and a greater well-being for their loved ones. On that pilgrimage of mankind, Christianity offers itself as a merciful Samaritan, ready to come to help. In itself, the value of the search, progress and promotion of mutual understanding among people also contains tourism, scientific exploration, cultural and sports travel and travel for commercial reasons. 'Pilgrimage 2000' points out for tourism and commercial agents not to be dominated only by economic interests, but also to be aware of their human and social functions.

There are also the special Christian experiences of pilgrimage: the missionary pilgrims from faraway lands, ecumenical gatherings for the gift of gatherings of praying together for the gift of unity among Christians and interreligious meetings (such as in Assisi in 1986).

In the Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' two cities are set out as a special goal of pilgrimages, Rome, symbol of the universal mission of the Church, and Jerusalem, holy place venerated by all those who follow the way of Abrahamic religions, the city from which the law and the word of Yahweh will go forth (Is 2,3). Pilgrimages must not be forgotten to the cities where evil has been committed (Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki).

At the end in Part VI of the Document 'Pilgrimage 2000' the Pilgrimage of the Christian Today is spoken of (n. 32-42). This is the most detailed part. In it, the most important elements of pilgrimage are set out and directions for pastoral care of pilgrimages are given. For the Christian, pilgrimage is "the celebration of his own faith ... which needs to be accomplished according to tradition, with religious sentiment and as a fulfilment of his paschal existence". In a special way, this experience takes place in the Eucharistic celebration of the paschal mystery, the reception of Holy Communion and the reading and reflection of the Gospel. For that purpose, pastoral care needs to be developed in the sanctuaries where pilgrims can experience a "silent and attentive contact with God and with themselves", above all in Holy Confession where their sins are forgiven and they become a new creation. Eucharistic celebration is the goal of reconciliation with God and with one's brothers. In the sanctuaries as well as during the time of the journey toward the sanctuary, a spiritual animator who must have a fundamental catechetical preparation should be present to be able to prepare the pilgrims for their meeting with God. The priests who animate the pilgrims during their common journey have a special responsibility in all this.

The encounter with God in the "Tent of Meeting" in the sanctuary is an encounter with Divine Love, an encounter with mankind, a cosmic encounter with God in the beauty of nature and an encounter with one's own self. Not a small number of Christian shrines are the goal also for pilgrimages of believers of other religions. This fact calls for the pastoral care of the Church to respond to it with initiatives of hospitality, dialogue, assistance and genuine fraternity.

Pilgrimage is also an encounter with Mary, the star of evangelisation. Marian shrines, great and small, can be privileged places for an encounter with Her Son whom She gives to us. Christians travel on the way with Mary - along the roads of faith, the roads of love and the roads of the world, so they can ascend to Calvary and there be beside her, like the beloved disciple to whom Christ entrusted His Mother - to the Cenacle of the Last Supper, in order to receive there from Her risen Son the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Prof. Dr. Adalbert Rebic, 1999

Prof Dr. Adalbert Rebic - born 1937 in Hum on Sutla (Croatia). He completed his study of philosophy in Zagreb and in the Graduate School of Philosophy at the Gregorian Papal University in Rome and theology at the Gregorian and the Biblical Institute. Since 1968, he is professor of biblical sciences and oriental languages (Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac-Aramaic) in the Graduate School of Theology at the Catholic University in Zagreb. He was guest professor at the theological institutes of Zadar and Djakovo. At the Graduate School he organized and managed the financial business, and served as editor-in-chief of Theological Review and head of the Graduate School Library. Since 1972, he is President of the Croatian Mariological Institute and organized the Croatian section at international Mariological Congresses in Rome, Malta, Zaragoza, Kevelaer, Huelva and Czestohowa.

He worked in the publishing house "Krscanska Sadasnjost [Christianity Today]" as editor of biblical publications and since 1994 as director of "Christianity Today", and chief editor of the religion lexicon in the Lexicographic Institute "Miroslav Krleza" in Zagreb. From 1991 - 1996, he was Head of the Office of Exiles and Refugees for the Government of the Republic of Croatia. During 1995, he was Minister without Portfolio in the Government of the Republic of Croatia. He has been honoured with the highest decorations by the President of the Republic of Croatia and by the Academy of Science and Art. He has published 15 significant works and edited 11 anthologies on Marian themes. He has collaborated in theological periodicals both at home and abroad with about 430 titles. He has translated 26 books from various languages. Since 1970, he is a member of the Prebendary College of the Zagreb Metropolitan See. Since 1966 he has organized and guided about 50 pilgrimages to the Holy Land. He is a member of the Society of Croatian literary translators, a member of the Arts Academy of Croatia, a regular member of the Papal International Marian Academy in Rome, a member of the Jewish cultural society "Shalom Freiberger" in Zagreb, and an editorial member of the international theological periodical "Communio".

Last Modified 01/08/2002