The history of the congresses currently organized by the Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago has its origin in theI Jacobean Encounter” Held in Santiago de Compostela between May 20 and 24, 1985, convened by the Center for Jacobean Studies of the Cathedral of Santiago on the occasion of the centenary of the Bull “Deus Omnipotens” of Pope Leo XIII who confirmed the authenticity of the relics of the Apostle and his disciples Theodore and Athanasius. The attendees, in a number close to forty, were parish priests and lay people committed to revitalizing the Camino de Santiago, some of them from beyond the Pyrenees.
It was a meeting of people who lived on the Camino and who worked for it, collaborating effectively in its revitalization, and where a series of proposals were made that at that time seemed like an unattainable dream but that marked the subsequent development of the Camino de Santiago.
The conclusions of the main issues discussed at the meeting were as follows:
1. Creation of a Coordinator or Commissioner of the Camino de Santiago. Elías Valiña Sanpedro, parish priest of Cebreiro, was elected
2. Need for Shelters for Pilgrims and the existence of a Pilgrim Information Office in Santiago.
3. The pilgrim must have special documentation, his “Pilgrim Card” that is equivalent to the safe-conduct or letters of recommendation of yesteryear.
4. There must be a “Book of Pilgrims” in the places of reception.
5. Promote the creation of “Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago” to revitalize, conserve and promote the Camino.
6. Religious attention and integrate pilgrims in religious acts.
7. Viability of the Camino de Santiago, attending to cleanliness, signaling and fountains.
As a result of the Meeting, the “Newsletter of the Camino de Santiago” was born, which Elías Valiña himself wrote, managed and sent by mail from his parish in Cebreiro. For two years it edited thirteen issues until it was replaced by the “Peregrino” magazine.
The work carried out by Elías Valiña what “Coordinator of the Camino de Santiago” took him to visit on many occasions the towns of the Jacobean route along the French Way, in order to meet with civil and religious authorities, as well as with the people involved in the revitalization of the Way, to whom Elías Valiña encouraged them to found Jacobean associations, as had been approved in the I Jacobean Encounter.
As a result of these meetings, in July 1986, Elías Valiña began to perceive the need for a “II Meeting“, an idea that receives the support of all the enthusiasts of the Camino, both Spanish and foreigners with whom it contacts. For this reason, in April and July 1987, meetings are held in Burgos and León, respectively, where the aspects principals of what was already called “International Congress of Jaca“: main topics to be discussed, program, economic issues and other logistical issues.
Finally the Congress, known as “I INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO“, took place in Jaca from September 23 to 26, 1987. A month earlier, Elías Valiña wrote in the last issue of the Bulletin that he directed, the meaning and importance that the Congress had for him:
«This Congress will mark a great historical milestone as the starting point of this already obvious Jacobean resurgence… I would dare to propose two momentous dates in the development and enhancement of the Camino de Santiago: the 12th century, the appearance of the Codex Calixtinus; 20th century ´The Congress of Jaca´. The Codex Calixtinus appears at the beginning of the full swing of the pilgrimages. The Jaca Congress is presented at the threshold of this notorious rebirth and revitalization of the Camino».