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The walk itself seemed quicker this year, with even the mayor, Miguel Valor, passing a joking comment that Bishop Jesús Murgui had switched to “turbo”.

Some 200,000 pilgrims joined in the annual walk to the Santa Faz monastery this week, joining what Regional President of Valencia, Alberto Fabra, described last year as a sign of “unity and strength” as there is nothing that can stop “the will of an entire people”.

In fact, although there were fewer attendees than last year, when some 300,000 pilgrims took the 7.5 kilometre trek, it was anticipated that last year would have been particularly busy on account of the event celebrating its 525th anniversary, it was inevitable in this election year that politicians would see the opportunity to gain support from the attendees.

The weather at the start of the day was cool, with clouds lining the sky, resulting in less fainting and heat related medical problems than in previous years, as from 7 in the morning the streets surrounding the Cathedral of St. Nicholas filled the streets with people collecting their bamboo rods with a sprig of rosemary protruding from the top, enjoying a blessing, before setting off on the pilgrimage.

The politicians began to gather in the town hall square, with key members from all the major political groups being in attendance. The regional secretary of the PSOE, Ximo Puig, and Enric Morera from Compromís and Fernando Llopis from the UPyD, amongst others, all ready to walk in the presence of the PP head, Alberto Fabra, ensuring a balance of political representation.

The walk itself seemed quicker this year, with even the mayor, Miguel Valor, passing a joking comment that Bishop Jesús Murgui had switched to “turbo”. In just one hour and 45 minutes the official delegation covered the route between the Cathedral of St. Nicholas and the Monastery of Santa Faz.

Almost becoming as traditional as the pilgrimage itself, there are often numerous protests along the route, although this year seemed to offer less than usual in terms of manifestations, with even a noticeable absence, perhaps due to the electioneering, of the traditional banner complaining about cuts in public transport outside the headquarters of Vectalia.

One group who did protest was a collective of traders opposed to the construction of an Ikea superstore in Rabasa, Alicante, who decided to take their protest to Santa Faz, albeit in a light-hearted manner. The only serious protests came in the form of a group of workers in Telefónica shirts, an anti-abortion association with an information booth.

Bishop Jesús Murgui emphasised that the event was both “unique” and “super special” for Alicante, on account of it “uniting us all” in the 15th century monastery where the holy Santa Faz relic is kept, a linen sheet on which Christ’s face is depicted, with a single tear falling from the right eye.

The relic that was brought over from The Vatican in the 15th century by a Franciscan priest, padre Villafranca , and according to popular tradition, is the fabric with which Veronica dried the bleeding face of Jesus on the Way of the Cross.

During both the walk and the subsequent celebrations afterwards, the political infestation continued, with perhaps the most curious element being the PP mayoral candidate Asunción Sánchez Zaplana coordinating pictures with Santa Faz for posting on social networks.

As the faithful reached the end of their pilgrimage and headed the monastery square, a mass was held by the Bishop of Orihuela-Alicante and the retired bishop, Rafael Palmero, before the time to rest, as the pilgrims then enjoyed craft stalls and food, visited one of the sideshows, went shopping and enjoyed their day, until a storm hit in the afternoon, bringing the whole day to an abrupt and dramatic close for another year.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/47003/

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