Sunday, 25 October 2009

Rome: a preview

Tomorrow the Cathedral's 150th anniversary pilgrimage to Rome begins. It's a week long trip to the 'eternal city', and around 30 parishioners are travelling. It promises to be quite a week!

After arrival tomorrow morning, there will be an afternoon visit to the Basilica of San Clemente then Mass in Rome's Cathedral Church (pictured here), the Basilica of St John Lateran.

Not far from the hotel is the famous Colosseum; tomorrow's programme ends with an optional evening stroll to this impressive landmark.

Tuesday morning sees a visit to the Vatican, for a guided tour of St Peter's Basilica. Afterwards pilgrims will be able to visit the crypt, containing the tombs of many popes, including Pope John Paul II; there will also be an opportunity to climb the dome for a spectacular view over the city. Mass on Tuesday will be celebrated at the Venerable English College, where Canon Stephen trained for the priesthood. The chapel at the college has recently been restored (more information here) and there is also a new exhibition about the English pilgrimage to Rome (find out more on a special website, here). The evening offers chance for a visit to the Trevi Fountain.

One of the highlights of any trip to Rome is a chance to see the Holy Father, and the parish pilgrims will be attending the weekly Papal Audience in St Peter's Square on Wednesday morning. Pope Benedict will deliver an address and greet the various pilgrims who are present. You can watch the audience live on the Catholic TV channel EWTN (available in the UK on Sky Digital, channel 589, or watch online at It starts at 9:30am (English time). In the afternoon there will be Mass at the 5th-century Basilica of St Mary Major and a visit to the church of Santa Prassede, which contains some famous 9th-century mosaics.

On Thursday there's a day out to Subiaco, where St Benedict set up his first monastery. There will be a tour and Mass before a return to Rome and visit to the Basilica of the Holy Cross, which contains relics of the Passion.

Friday brings opportunity for an early Mass at St Peter's Basilica, near to the tomb of our patron. After this there will be an opportunity for personal sightseeing, and a number from the group will visit the extensive Vatican Museums and the famous Sistine Chapel.

On Saturday there's a morning excursion to the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, which contains mosaics of all 265 popes. In the afternoon there's a visit to the Catacombs, where a vigil Mass for the feast of All Saints will be celebrated.

These are just some of the highlights of the week; there will be much more to report, and no doubt we will see one or two familiar faces in the city. Everyone in the parish will be remembered in prayer during the pilgrimage, and our thoughts are especially with those who would like to come but - for whatever reason - are not able to do so. You can follow the pilgrimage on the blog: technology permitting, we hope to provide the blogging equivalent of an 'outside broadcast', with several posts each day during the week. If the technology lets us down there may be a break in posting, but - either way - there will be plenty of pictures and reports on our return. Meanwhile, don't forget that all Masses will take place in the Cathedral as normal; Vespers will also be celebrated on Sunday at the usual time. Confessions take place as usual on Saturday morning, and on demand before Mass on Saturday evening. There will be no Exposition on Thursday, but it will take place as usual on Saturday and Sunday. Cathedral House will be occupied throughout the visit, but there may not always be someone to answer the phone! If you need a priest in an emergency, try St Bernadette's (tel: 63000) or St Joseph's (tel: 32493). Normal service resumes shortly!