Brother Jorge and the Statio Peregrinorum, arrival place of Francis' route fr - Brother Jorge and the Statio Peregrinorum, arrival place of Francis' route fr
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The Statio Peregrinorum is located a few meters from the entrance to the Sacred Convent in Assisi. It's a small but very important office for pilgrims since it issues the Testimonium at the end of one's own pilgrimage journey.
The coordinator of the Statio Peregrinorum activity is Brother Jorge Fernandez, a polite and calm friar from the North of Argentina, came to Assisi a few years ago, after having spent 6 years in Rome and travelled in 16 Southern American countries.
Brother Jorge speaks Italian, English, Spanish and Portuguese and within the Sacred Convent, beyond the many other duties, he deals with all the activity revolving around the Statio Peregrinorum and to its meaning for pilgrims.
"The Statio Peregrinorum," Brother Jorge explains, "is open all days of the year from 10 am to 12.30 pm and from 2 to 5.30 pm and it represents a spiritual welcome point for pilgrims coming to Assisi. The principal function is issuing the "Testimonium" to those meeting the requirements to get it, that is having walked at least 100 km or having ridden by bike 250 km. Nevertheless, even who doesn't meet these requirements or arrive without credentials, won't be sent away empty-handed, but will receive a Blessing postcard.
"Furthermore, the Testimonium is also issued to mascots who accompanied pilgrims in their journey, such as dogs and every kind of animal. Beyond the Testimonium," Brother Jorge continues, "we provide information to all pilgrims, both on Assisi and on walks, listening to their requests, issuing some 'emergency' credentials to those about to start off on the route from Assisi and who didn't know to request it in advance.
Brother Jorge also deals with registering all the pilgrims receiving the Testimonium or the Blessing postcard, asking them to fill out a short questionnaire that is very important also from a statistical point of view.
"About half of pilgrims are Italian," Brother Jorge notes, "and we have German, Austrian, French and Dutch people. The latest period saw an increase in English-speaking pilgrims, from Australia and the US. In 2015, starting from April 18, the inauguration day, we registered 1600 pilgrims; at the end of August 2016 we had already counted about 2300".
Beyond issuing the Testimonium, registering and welcoming pilgrims, the Statio Peregrinorum is also a place for sharing, telling one's own experiences and stories, that reveal the thousand different aspects of Francis' Route and of people walking through it.
"The pilgrim is usually a person who talks gladly," Brother Jorge continues, speaking in a direct and quiet way,"and when the queue to get the Testimonium is too long it's beautiful to start a conversation and share the deep reasons of one's own pilgrimage to Assisi.
"Motivations why a person starts a pilgrimage are very different, from faith and spiritual motivation, to existential reasons of various kinds, to the friendship with someone who is walking and with whom sharing the itinerary, or to pay homage to some close people".
Obviously, Brother Jorge listens every day to many travel-stories and tells us some extraordinary ones that make us understand what is for people the value of pilgrimage and arrival to Assisi.
"There are a lot of beautiful stories, but some of them, certainly, stayed most in my mind. I remember a woman who left for Belgium on foot and that got hurt halfway, so she had to come home. As soon as she recovered, she asked to be brought back to the place where she stopped and from there she continued on foot until Assisi. Or a group of Polish ex-prisoners, who made a vow in prison and walked from Poland to Rome, via Assisi, pulling a wagon the entire way, with something to eat, to drink and what was needed for the pilgrimage. Another beautiful story concerns an English man who walked from England to the Holy Land and during the journey collected peace messages. There are a lot of similar fascinating stories, all different one from the other but equally important."
Brother Jorge, who walked the St. Francis Way route in the winter 2015 from La Verna to Assisi and was fascinated by it too, ends our meeting with an advice and a recommendation: "The pilgrim starts a journey on foot for different reasons, but in any case he shouldn't be considered as a 'normal' tourist. I sometimes see an exaggerated urge to promote the walk, following too much the commercial goals and too less the spiritual values. Instead the pilgrimage's promotion happens thanks to the word of mouth amongst pilgrims, through the exchange of nice experiences lived during the journey, particularly linked to the welcoming spirit, to love and to the open mentality of people met along the road and who live on the road".
Brother Jorge, together with all the friars of Assisi, through their kindness and willingness, are exactly some of these people; we learnt that there are many similar people and they are exactly why the St. Francis Way is unique.
For information about the St. Francis Way: www.francescosways.com