Day one consisted of a visit to the Vatican museums including the Sistine Chapel.
This was followed by a visit to the Venerable English College for Mass celebrated by Fr Stephen. We were welcomed at the door by Southwark student Matthew O'Gorman. Following the Mass the rector, Mgr Nicholas Hudson who also is a priest of the Southwark Archdiocese, gave the youngsters a brief tour of the College, decribing the martyrdom of the priests who trained that the College during the reign of Elizabeth I only to return to Britain to face certain death. He recalled how, whenever news reached the College that another former-student priest had been martyred, the seminarians gathered to sing a Te Deum. He also said how a priest being executed would think of his brothers at the English College who would be singing the Te Deum when news of his martyrdom reached them.
Mgr Hudson didn't fail to remind the youngsters that in the previous reign of Mary Tudor, protestants had been killed and that we must pray that Christians never do these things to one another again.
We were very pleased to meet some of our Southwark seminarians at the Venerable English College, including Luke dePoulford who is pictured below with Wonersh seminarian Samuel Davey and Fr Stephen.
Day two took us to St Peter's for the Wednesday audience with the Pope. We were the first of the English language groups to be mentioned.
Following a brief shopping period and a welcome lunch, it was off to St Mary Major's for Mass celebrated by me and guided tour by Fr Stephen.
Following that, an evening visit to the Collosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona. Take-away pizzas, ice creams, milk shakes, smoothies etc. were consumed en route.
An amazing event took place at the Trevi Fountains. One of our party had lost his wallet with money and NHS health card. Although we thought there probably wouldn't be any point in re-tracing steps, assuming the wallet had been taken by a pick pocket, we nevertheless went back and found that the wallet had been handed to the police who were still on duty there. We met the young man who had handed the wallet in, extremely appreciative of his honesty and integrity.
Day three saw us getting up very early for Mass in St Peter's Basilica celebrated by Fr Stephen on the altar of Blessed John XXIII. I suggested - tongue in cheek - that it would surely be most appropriate to celebrate the Mass using the Missal which Pope John left to the Church in 1962, but that suggestion was not taken up. In the basilica, however, many priests were obviously celebrating Mass in the extraordinary form.
The Mass was followed by a visit to the grottoes of the Popes. The group then went up the cupola for fine views of Rome, followed by a short period of prayer in the by now crowded Blessed Sacrament Chapel and a tour of the basilica.
We then had a visit to the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith courtesy of Mgr Patrick Burke (pictured left below) who took the group to the roof of the building for a close up view of St Peter's.
Then it was off to the catacombs of St Callistus and a slap-up lunch before returning to our hotel to collect luggage and transfer to the airport, and arrival back to London after 11pm. All tired, but having had a great trip.