(Source: Devin Watkins, Vatican News)

Álvaro Calvente, a 15-year-old with a mental health condition from Málaga, Spain, completed the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage last week.

He was accompanied by a family friend and his father, who documented the journey of faith on Twitter (@CaminodeAlvaro).

Alvaro’s bio says he has “capabilities that you can’t even imagine.” He also says his dream is “to meet the Pope.”

Pilgrimage of prayers

Pope Francis went some way to making that dream a reality, with a letter dated 20 July which was published on the Diocese of Málaga’s website.

“Dear Alvaro,” wrote the Pope, “I received a letter from your father in which he told me that you have finished the Camino de Santiago and that, in your backpack, you carried not only your intentions, but also those of the many people who ‘joined you’ on the pilgrimage and asked you for prayers.”

The Holy Father admired the young man’s courage in undertaking the journey during the Covid-19 crisis.

“Thank you for daring to walk and for inviting many others to walk with you,” Pope Francis wrote. “In the midst of the pandemic we are forced to live with, you succeeded – with your sincerity, joy and cheerfulness – to spark hope in the many people you met along the way or through social media.”

“We never walk alone”

Pope Francis said Alvaro’s pilgrimage taught others “not to be afraid and to rediscover their joy, because we never walk alone.”

“The Lord,” he added, “always walks beside us. Thank you for your witness and prayers.”

Finally, the Holy Father blessed Álvaro and asked Our Lady of Mount Carmel to watch over him.

“Give my greetings to your parents and brothers and sisters,” concluded Pope Francis. “And please do not forget to pray for me.”

Active parish member

According to the Diocese of Málaga, Alvaro Calvente is the seventh of ten children, and belongs to the Neocatechumenal Way of St. Patrick’s Parish.

“His intellectual disability is not an impediment to participating actively in parish life, and his joyful experience of faith is a witness to all who know him,” wrote the Diocese.

Along with the pilgrimage, Alvaro also started a crowdfunding campaign to support the poor through the Cottolengo de Málaga charity.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.