“The Via Francigena, Way of Peace” is the title of an international forum, organized by the European Association of the Vie Francigene, to celebrate 15 years since its founding. On Europe Day, 9 May, AEVF wanted to remember the importance of the Way that unites the people of Europe, from the north to the Mediterranean.
“A Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” is the definition of the Via Francigena, a reference which comes from the “Programme of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe”, launched in 1987 in Santiago de Compostela, exactly two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Camino de Santiago, the first European Cultural Route, highlights the importance of intercultural dialogue and the three major pilgrimage routes of the medieval period: Santiago de Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem. The “Declaration”, approved in Santiago on 23 October, 1987, insists on the following principles: “humanity in society, the ideas of freedom and justice and faith in progress. These are the principles that have historically shaped the different cultures of Europe, forging a common identity. This cultural idea is, today as in the past, the result of the existence of a European collective memory, including these paths that go beyond distances, borders and misunderstandings.”
In the “Declaration”, the theme of pilgrimage and journeys as a metaphor for the rediscovery of European roots is emphasized. It is a call to all people to think of society as being “based on tolerance, respect for others, freedom and solidarity. “
On Europe Day, Massimo Tedeschi, President of the European Association of the Vie Francigene, spoke on the values associated with the Francigena and other paths:
“The Via Francigena, along with the Camino de Santiago, has become a pioneer in the revival of pilgrimage routes: the routes to Rome; the paths of St. Olav, in Northern Europe; the Micaelici pilgrimage, which all come together to form the extended family of European cultural routes. Europe is dotted with these paths which share a common cultural matrix that joins them, while also preserving their diversity. The Via Francigena, beginning at the Mediterranean and joining paths from Northern and Eastern Europe, is taking on a highly symbolic value in the process of building Europe and will serve as a reference and example for future actions.
This value is even stronger in the Jubilee Year proclaimed by Pope Francis and the launching of the year of the Camino by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage as a sign of rebirth of a slow tourism model that brings people and territories together.
The Vie Francigene represent a geopolitical path that helps to break down the walls that separate cultures, fostering dialogue, tolerance and cooperation. Jacques Le Goff, the great historian of the Middle Ages and a great lover of the Via Francigena, to whom the AEVF has dedicated the opening International Forum “Via Francigena Way of Peace”, calls the Francigena ” the bridge of cultures between Anglo-Saxon and Latin Europe”.
Tedeschi concluded that, “building the Via Francigena helps to build a Europe of communities , a goal that we continue to pursue: and in fact, this Europe, which finds its roots in the vision of the great founding fathers who, in the last century began to conceive and to build it, Spinelli, Adenauer, Monnet, Schumann, De Gasperi, is more than ever on the move, under construction, or rather, in reconstruction, and the Francigena can become a metaphor for the rebirth of the spirit and of European roots.”