A local NGO is trying to recreate a 16th-century pilgrimage trail from Mdina to Żejtun, in what could be described as Malta's version of the Camino de Santiago. 

XirCammini, is keen to reinstate the Universal Peace Walk, a tradition 1543 route which eventually became known as 'St Gregory's pilgrimage' [il-pellegrinaġġ ta’ San Girgor].

The NGO is focused on developing, sharing and walking ancient heritage trails as a common European heritage. 

The traditional 1543 route was from Mdina to Zejtun. However, it changed over the years as more parishes where established, so pilgrims would meet up in Paola, travel towards Tarxien and end at St. Gregory’s church in Zejtun.

At the beginning of the 20th century the walk was shortened and with time it diminished with importance until it practically disappeared. 

Although the Universal Peace Walk was instituted by Bishop Domenico Cubelles in 1543, it was more of a socio-political peace walk than an ecumenical pilgrimage. Its aim was ‘Pro pace universali’ - universal peace. 

In an interview for the Times of Malta XirCammini president James Portelli said: “Having walked the Camino a few times in the company of like-minded friends, a group of us decided to launch an NGO, XirCammini, dedicated to researching, sharing and walking ancient pilgrim trails in Europe. 

“The Camino de Santiago is one of many such trails, but there are at least 50 other ancient pilgrims routes across, say, 20 countries in Europe.

“We believe that the [Universal Peace] walk has the potential to attract hikers or pilgrims from Malta and from overseas to walk this walk. 

“Malta may not have the abundance of greenery that other, longer, ancient trails have. But what it lacks in natural environment Malta has in history. We intend to exploit this in rolling out this walk in 2020.”

XirCammini’s project will stretch over almost 50km, incorporating all of the original parishes from 1436.  

The NGO’s site also claims that route and locality information and physical or virtual pilgrim passports will be provided. Those who walk back in time covering the whole Universal Peace Walk will receive a pilgrim certificate.

“We are still pursuing various options of funding so as to put in place the necessary waymarks and other infrastructure for the Universal Peace Walk to be more accessible even to individual hikers pursuing independently of any group,” added Mr Portelli.

The walk will be officially inaugurated in 2020, Mr Portelli said, coinciding with the original feast date of St. Gregory the Great.

Three versions of the walk, all supported by a pilgrim passport, will be inaugurated in early 2020.

One walk will be a group event on or close to the original anniversary date of this historic event, with the objective of raising funds for a social charitable cause.

The other two will be aimed at individuals or groups wanting to walk the trail either as a linear walk over one or two days or as a series of loop walks covering the trail over four stages.

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