WAY OF SAINT JAMES IN LITHUANIA
On 23 October 1987, the Council of Europe which is based in Strasbourg published Santiago de Compostela Declaration recognising the Way of Saint James and its branches the whole Europe as the first Cultural Route of Europe. The key message of the declaration is that Europe is not just a political and economic project but, first and foremost, a union based on values and community acting on the basis of the Christian roots of Europe. Lithuania is also included in the map attached to the Declaration and two branches of the Way of Saint James through Lithuania are shown in the map.
In 2009, The Member of the European Parliament Dr. Laima Liucija Andrikienė joined the Group for Friends of the Way of Saint Jamees in the European Parliament. Encouraged by her collegues Members of the European Parliament from other countries, in 2012 Laima Andrikienė started to promote Camino de Santiago, i.e. the Way of Saint James leading to the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela in Lithuania. The latter was built in the place in which the Apostle Saint James was buried. Pilgrims travel to Santiago de Compostela from the early Middle Ages to the present day.
In the summer of 2012, the book “The Light of St James Way” (Šv. Jokūbo kelio šviesa) was published in the Lithuanian and English languages, 172 pages, illustrated with photos of Saint James churches. The author of the book – Dr. Laima Andrikienė, the editor – Valentina Čeplevičiūtė, the author of the photos – Valdas Kilpys, tha authors of the maps – Birutė Nenortaitė and Artūras Šiuipys. This book which during the period from 2012 to 2014 was additionally published twice, was distributed in Lithuania and abroad.
Then Dr. Laima Andrikienė started to “build” Ways of Saint James in Lithuania. Archbishop Metropolitan of Vilnius Gintaras Grušas became the patron of the whole major project; during the plenary session the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference (LBC) took a decision to support the project and disseminate information on the project.
There are four international Ways of Saint James in Lithuania.
Žemaitija(Samogitia)/Königsberg Way of Saint James. Length of the way: 269 km. Stations of the way: Ezere (Latvia) > Mažeikiai > Seda > Telšiai > Plungė > Kretinga > Klaipėda > Švėkšna > Šilutė > Pagėgiai > Sovetsk (Russian Federation).
In the spring of 2013, the first pilgrimage by bicycle on the Ways of Saint James in Lithuania was organised on the initiative of Laima Andrikienė. The pilgrims started in Puńsk and, having covered several hundreds of kilometers and having visited the shrines of Saint James, they finished their pilgrimage in Vilnius. The end of the pilgrimage coincided with the start of the international conference “Values and Politics II. Christian Roots of Europe. Camino de Santiago: the First Cultural Route of Europe and its Importance in the Post-Modern Europe” organised by Dr. Laima Andrikienė. The author of Santiago de Compostela Declaration, former Secretary-General Council of Europe Marcelino Oreja y Aguirre, the Members of the European Parliament, the Members of the Government and the Seimas of Lithuania attended the conference and delivered a presentation.
Later, pilgrimages on the Ways of Saint James in Lithuania were organised in 2014, 2015, 2016.
The Association of Friends of the Way of Saint James which has 70 members operates in Lithuania since October 2013. They are in different districts of our country, the majority of members reside in Kaunas. Administration of the Association: 2013–2015, the President Dainius Varnas, 2015–2017, the President Laima Kurantavičienė, 2017-2019, the President Birutė Emilija Nenortaitė, the Chairman of the Board Valdas Kilpys. Currently, the President is Dainius Varnas. (email@example.com). The majority of the Association are priests and teachers, doctors, young professionals, journalists, pensioners.
On 31 May 2016, the Association of Municipalities of Saint James Way of Lithuania which today unites 25 municipalities of Lithuania was established:
Alytus District Municipality;
Kaišadorys District Municipality;
Kaunas City Municipality;
Kretinga District Municipality;
Lazdijai District Municipality;
Varėna District Municipality;
Municipalities which have joined the project:
- Šiauliai District Municipality;
- Šiauliai City Municipality;
- Rokiškis District Municipality;
- Molėtai District Municipality;
- Šilutė District Municipality;
- Pasvalys District Municipality;
- Joniškis District Municipality;
- Alytus City Municipality;
- Raseiniai District Municipality;
- Kelmė District Municipality;
- Birštonas Municipality;
- Kaunas District Municipality;
- Trakai District Municipality;
- Prienai District Municipality;
- Elektrėnai Municipality;
- Vilnius City Municipality.
First of all, such association was necessary in lithuania for official continuation of the works of establishment, marking, coordination and publicity of the Ways of Saint James in Lithuania which have already been started. The Association tries to carry out coordinated actions to restore and give full meaning to the architectural, cultural and natural heritage near the Ways of Saint James, in the territories of the municipalities. Attempts have been made to promote the local residents’ interest in the Christian roots of Europe, religion and culture, traditions and heritage, increase the visitability and visibility of the objects related to the history of Lithuania and the Church.
At the General Assembly which took place on 3 June 2016 in Portugal the Association was admitted to the European Federation of Saint James Way, became its fully-fledged member and the Mayor of Panevėžys City R. Račkauskas was elected as its Vice-President. Currently, the members of the Federation and the Association of Municipalities of Saint James Way of Lithuania are as follows: Xunta de Galicia (Regional Government of Galicia (Spain)); Le Puy-en-Velay (France) Agglomeration; Namur Province (Belgium); Assisi (Italy) Municipality, Vilapouca de Aguiar (Portugal) Municipality, Kujawsko – Pomorskie (Poland) Municipality and Rothenburg Ob Der Tasuber (Germany) Municipality. Thus, the Ways of Saint James running through Lithuania were recognised internationally, Lithuania was included in the Map of European Pilgrimage Routes again. The Way of Saint James in Lithuania is a cultural route officially certified by the European Institute of Cultural Routes.
On 2 June 2016, The Government of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the Resolution “On the Way of Saint James through Lithuania” to which an annex of 32 shrines is attached. They are stations of the Ways of Saint James in Lithuania (11 operating churches of Saint James and 7 shrines in each of the 7 dioceses in Lithuania). The only financing allocated for the activities of the Way of Saint James in Lithuania from the budget of the State was ceramic signs of the Way of Saint James for marking the shrines of the Way of Saint James specified in the resolution of the Government. In 2018, marking of all 32 shrines of Lithuania mentioned in the resolution was completed. Currently, the maps of the Ways of Saint James in Lithuania are being prepared, other infrastructure development (hostels, marking of the ways and stations by the special sign) works are carried out. In 2018, bronze shell-shaped signs of the Way of Saint James on the sidewalks which have already been recognised throughout Europe appeared in Kaunas City.
Currently, interactive maps of the Ways of Saint James in Lithuania are being prepared, other infrastructure development (hostels, marking of the ways and stations by the special sign) works are carried out, pilgrim passports in which each the stamps evidencing the way covered by each pilgrim in Lithuania are attached are produced.
Information taken from: www.svjokubokelias.lt
For more details:
Facebook: Light of the Way of Saint James (link: https://www.facebook.com/%C5%A0v-Jok%C5%ABbo-kelio-%C5%A1viesa-386081231526201/ )