The starting point of the Camino Podolico cultural route was opened in the center of Vinnytsia, Ukraine. It is a pedestal with a sculpture of Saint James the Apostle and a landscaped area with stairs and a ramp.
The grand opening of this location took place near the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Angels on July 25 on the feast of St. James the Apostle according to the Gregorian calendar and on the occasion of Vinnytsia joining the European Federation of the St James Way (http://surl.li/jgopi ). The sculpture depicts the saint martyr with the characteristic Jacobean cross-sword and the scallop shell which are the attributes of pilgrims who go to one of the three main shrines of Western Christianity - the Cathedral of the Apostle James in Santiago de Compostela.
Even before the full-scale invasion, the city council and the parish of the church planned to place the starting point of Camino Podolico with a thematic sculpture that would attract even more tourists and pilgrims here. The sculpture was made in Poland at the expense of parishioners of the Church of the Holy Virgin Mary of Angels.
Vyacheslav Sokolovyi - Head of the Vinnytsia Regional Council, Pavlo Yablonskyi - Secretary of the Vinnytsia City Council, Andriy Ocheretnyi - Deputy Mayor of Vinnytsia, Radosław Żmitrowycz - Assistant Bishop of the Kamianets-Podilskyi Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine and Symeon - Metropolitan of Vinnytsia and Bar of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine took part in the ceremonial opening of the sculpture of St. James. Also, representatives of local communities of Vinnytsia and Khmelnytskyi regions, partners of the route, believers, and pilgrims were at this event.
"We are pleased that Vinnytsia has become the easternmost point of the St. James Way. On June 29-30, at the General Assembly of the European Federation of the St. James Way, Vinnytsia, and Camino Podolico were unanimously accepted into this respectable organization. It is the first step towards the certification of Camino Podolico in the Council of Europe and joining the European cultural routes. Today, we have already attracted about 25 000 euros of grant funds for the implementation of this project. Today, Vinnytsia is showing its leadership, and those communities that joined the Way made a very important contribution. What you see today is the embodiment of the joint efforts of the church's parishioners, pilgrims, regional councils, the Vinnytsia City Council, and funds. A lot preceded this event. And I am convinced that only success is ahead of us," vice-mayor Andriy Ocheretnyi noted.
According to Mr. Ocheretnyi, this itinerary can also be used for psychological rehabilitation, rethinking oneself and past experiences, so in the future veterans, their families, and internally displaced persons will be invited to walk or ride it. Currently, some sections of the route can be visited individually taking into account wartime restrictions.
"A big thank you to everyone who joined this, everyone who helped make this route, this gift for Podillya and the whole of Ukraine. In Europe, the Way was a place to meet God, as well as to find oneself. I know that two pilgrims are starting their way from Vinnytsia today. I think they will also pray for us, for Ukraine, for peace and victory," said Radosław Żmitrowicz, who consecrated the sculpture at the end of the event.
President of the European Federation of the Way of Saint James Ildefonso de la Campa Montenegro has addressed his speech to the participants in a video message: “For more than 1200 years European citizens have been working freely, meeting and changing knowledge on this route that crosses Europe to Finisterra to the end of the world. The way of Saint James is a way of peace, of union between people, and of freedom. Today in Europe, the Podolic way in Ukraine is the synthesis of what the Way means: the constant struggle of man for his freedom, independence, and self-determination. We are convinced that sooner rather than later, thousands of citizens from all over the world will walk your Podolic way in a peaceful, free, democratic country, fully integrated into Europe”.