After the Catacombs we went back for lunch and then set out for St. Peters. Because there are so few people here it is easy to wander round. We had a lovely guide who spoke to us via ear pieces as we looked at the Holy Doors, the Pieta, and then the tomb of Pope John XXIII, now in the main church, and also that of John Paul II, both saints now of course. She explained various statues the tombs, the memorial to the Stewart Kings (or Pretenders), and the one I like most the statue of Benedict XV, who did so much to work for peace in the First World War. Then we took ourselves below to the tombs of the Popes, Paul VI, Adrian IV, the only English pope, and many others. A few of us made it to the top of the dome after a serious climb, (this is why a beer is always necessary at times on a pilgrimage), and then we came back for Vespers at Santi Quattro Coronati with the Augustinian Sisters who looked a little put out at the young man who sang vigorously with them all the way through, (not badly though.) We escaped before Mass. After supper Anthony took us through some back streets to find some little known bits and pieces and to the church of St. Giorgio in Coelio, from where St. Gregory the Great sent out St. Augustine to England, and where I, as a deacon, nearly hit the Archbishop of Canterbury on the head with a thurible once, but that was another event altogether. This morning we were up early for an audience with the Pope. The Pope spoke on Elijah’s encounter with God at the mouth of the cave. The need for fire in our lives, fire of action, as Elijah experienced at the end of his life, his chariot of fire, (the Holy Spirit in the New Testament) and the need for quiet prayer to listen to God in the silence God gives. We all face challenges like Elijah with Jezebel and Ahab, and we need the quiet contemplative silence. But the prayer is only half done if we do not turn from our encounter with God to the needs of our neighbours, our brothers and sisters. As we left the rain was gently coming down. (It dried up but there was a real downpour later, fortunately some of us were still at lunch!) Veronica and I met up with Bruno and another young man Samuele from Cenacolo and had a coffee and a chat over the phone with Tiziano. Bruno is looking very well indeed and sends his regards to all and of course Margaret. We ended the afternoon with a Mass in San Giorgio in Velabro, with relics of St. George, (it had been Newman’s titular church when he was a cardinal) which was very suitable for our parish. With any luck some photographs may follow!
Above we have pictures of our group arriving at St. Peters on 6th, the emptiness of St.Peter’s Square, of us before the Pieta, the view from the first stop within the cupola and then from the top looking outside, plus Marie Peters making her way down from the very top inside the cupola. Then this morning arriving for the audience in the rain, us listening to the French welcome at the audience, Pope Francis of course, and then San Giorgio in Velabro.