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Friday, 10 November 2017

St Thomas Becket Hamburg pilgrimage to Rome

Edoardo guides the pilgrims through the Vatican Museums
17 people from the parish of St Thomas a Becket in Hamburg recently made a pilgrimage to Rome. From 23 to 28 October, led by their priest, the Revd Canon Dr Leslie Nathaniel, the pilgrims who aged from 17 to 70 visited many of the Christian sites as well as the ancient monuments of the Eternal City. I was pleased to be able to accompany the pilgrims for a couple of days, as I was in Rome for other meetings at that time.

One of our postulants for Holy Orders, Edoardo Fanfani, from All Saints Rome, who is a student at the Pontifical Gregorian University studying art history was able to be the guide for the group. Edoardo knows just about everything there is to know about Rome, her buildings, her art, her monuments, and links all this to the Christian presence and life in this his native city.

Fr Leslie Nathaniel at the Papal General Audience
Among the highlights of the pilgrimage was a visit to the Anglican Centre in Rome, where Associate Director Fr Marcus Walker gave the group a short introduction to the role of the Centre and an overview of Roman Catholic-Anglican relations over these past 50 years of formal dialogue. The parishioners of St Thomas Becket were thrilled to find that one of the most precious items at the Anglican Centre is a relic of St Thomas Becket himself!

Fr Marcus presenting the work of the Anglican Centre in Rome

Another highlight was the visit to the Catacombs of Santa Priscilla where some of the most ancient Christian art can be found, including a late 3rd century image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the child Jesus.

There are more than 10 km of passage ways in these catacombs, and some 40,000 early Christians were buried here, including 7 early Popes. We were given permission to celebrate the eucharist in an area of the catacombs close to the tomb of St Marcellinus, Bishop of Rome in the late 3rd century. It was a very moving place to pray together and celebrate the mass.

One of the pilgrims, who is normally confined to a wheelchair, was unable to descend into the catacombs, but we were able to bring Holy Communion to him when we surfaced after the eucharist.

The pilgrims joined in the General Audience held in St Peter's Square, and had special seats reserved for them, close to Pope Francis.

It was a joy to be able to have a short while with these pilgrims and to get to know them (I had confirmed a number of them) and spend time sharing our faith in Rome. St Thomas Becket parish is already a deeply ecumenically minded community and this pilgrimage is sure to strengthen that commitment.

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