Thursday, 10 May 2012

Interns on Tour: Rome Day 1

Between rescuing Terrapins in the Vatican Gardens and consuming our collective body weights in pizza and ice cream – the interns managed to make it to some pretty fascinating meetings in Rome over the last few days.

Dominic, Lucy, Matthew, Michaela and Stephen in front of Trevi Fountain

Arriving on Friday night, the weekend was spent sight-seeing and sheltering from the rain as the forecasted sunshine and showers prevailed. On Sunday morning we found ourselves surrounded by a great deal of pomp and ceremony at the annual swearing-in of the new Swiss Guards. We quickly combated this cultural expereince with a healthy dose of English premiership football in an ‘Irish Pub’ just off Piazza Navona as the downpour continued outside.

Our official itinerary kicked off on Monday morning with a visit to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith – previously know, amongst other things, as the Spanish Inquisition. The job of the CDF is to identify heresy, and act on it. This is a lengthy and heavily bureaucratic process revolving around meetings and letter writing. Mgr Patrick Burke gave us a detailed history of how the Congregation came to be in its present form and showed us some 15th century manuscripts of investigations, in the small library that remains in the CDF today, the rest of the collection being housed in the ‘Secret Library’ or the archive under the CDF. We all appreciated Mgr Patrick’s frankness about the most sensitive and challenging issues facing the Church today and were impressed with his directness and unswerving belief in the importance of consistency and truth.

In the Cardinal's Room at the CDF

From the CDF we jumped in taxis and headed to the English College where English seminarians are training in Rome.  Two previous interns, Peter Stoddart and Luke DePulford are currently students there and sat in on our meeting with Associated Press journalist Nicole Winfeld. Nicole is the Vatican correspondent for one of the major global news wires, from where most other news stations get their information. She has been in Rome for 10 years but it neither she nor the Vatican have endeared themselves to one another.

After this particularly disheartening meeting, we were given a tour of the English College by Fr John Paul who is the Pastoral Director there. He then celebrated Mass for us in the larger of the College’s two stunning chapels.

Chapel in the English College

In the afternoon we visited the HQ of Caritas Internationalis. Michel Roy, the Secretary General, spoke to us about his role and the pros and cons of working for a faith organisation in the world of international aid and development.

The first day had been a long one and we were all more than ready for dinner that evening, at which Peter and Luke joined us again to tell us about their experience of Seminary life and of their time as Catholic Parliamentary Interns.

(Photos/ footage to come!)

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