Hiking the Via Francigena for children with cancer: the pilgrimage of Raphaël Farquet, ex Swiss Guard who is traversing the Italian tract of Sigeric’s route.
His is a special journey, which began in July 2017 in Switzerland, few km from home, in Sion, capital of the Valles canton. He will arrive in Rome in October 2019 after having walked the two legs in two years.
Raphaël’s pilgrimage unites work, family and social obligations. The Swiss pilgrim is walking for the ARFEC (Association Romande des Familles d’Enfants atteints d’un Cancer), an association with its headquarters in Lausanne which helps families with children who have cancer.
“When this illness comes life suddenly changes. For 31 years this association offers activities to support families with economic aid, holiday camps, meetings and company – says Raphaël – various people I know have fought this battle. The abbot, Joseph Roduit, of the St Maurice abbey (among those interviewed for the “I volti della Via Francigena” documentary film by Fabio Dipinto) offered a lot of support for the Francigena, in 2015 he died of cancer.
Raphaël’s hike is one of charity told on Facebook too, on the “Via Francigena pour l’Arfec” page. The main aim is to collect donations for the association, but for the Swiss pilgrim the Francigena has a second meaning: “I chose this route to celebrate twenty years since I swore my oath. I served in Rome for twenty years and now I live in Switzerland with my family – adds Raphaël – unable to leave home for many weeks I decided to complete the legs of the Francigena over two years.”
In August 2017, he completed the Swiss side, crossing the Great St Bernard, walking along the route tract in Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont. In January, he returned and journeyed from Vercelli to Piacenza, and over the past few days returned once more to Italy to continue to Fidenza, where he was welcomed by the staff of the European Association of the Vie Francigene
(EAVF) as well as the president, Massimo Tedeschi. A friendly encounter, which united the Swiss Francigena with the Italian, thanks to the work of EAVF vice-president Gaëtan Tornay (Région Bas-Valais).
“I will take on the Passo della Cisa in the next few months. I tried to cross the Sarzana to Massa tract over these past days and would have liked to continue to Lucca/San Gimignano but, due to the impracticability of some tracts, I decided to stop and postpone that part of the route,” explains the pilgrim. The bad weather of these weeks created various criticalities along some legs, especially between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany. Despite difficulties and deviations along the course, the Swiss pilgrim continues along his journey with great enthusiasm.
The flag of the association he is walking for continues to wave from his backpack. It is his motivation for this adventure, which will take him to Rome by 2019. “Despite having constantly wet shoes, I like this route – Raphaël says jokingly – finding oneself alone is fantastic, it’s an experience which makes you reflect on life. I am also doing it as a Christian Catholic pilgrim who should go, at least once in their life, from home to Rome. I do it above all, however, for the families who have children with cancer.”
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