Pope prays at tomb to Saint James

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Pope Benedict XVI prayed alone Saturday in the room holding the tomb of Saint James in the 12th century cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The 83-year-old pontiff, spiritual leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide, was left alone in the small room containing the relic and knelt at the tomb to pray, shortly after beginning a two-day visit to Spain.

A white zuchetto on his head, draped in a white cassock and a red cloak and stole, the pontiff then walked around a painted statue of Saint James clutching a staff, which has drawn pilgrims since the Middle Ages.

The remains of Saint James, later to be known as the Slayer of the Moors, were discovered by a hermit in 813 and became a symbol to rally Christian Spain, then pinned down by the Muslim Moors to the northern strip of the peninsula.

© 2010 AFP

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