Next week, I’m really looking forward to welcoming to Rome a number of friends from my home parish of New Malden. Flicking through the itinerary, it appears Felicity and Malcolm Surridge have prepared a real treat. Whether this is your first time in Rome, or you’re a seasoned visitor, there will be much to see, experience and, dare I say it, eat!
Of course, the main reason why any Catholic comes to Rome is to make pilgrimage, specifically, “ad limina Apostolorum”, to the threshold of the Apostles, and to the Successor of Peter, Christ’s Vicar on earth.
Whilst in Rome, you will, I hope, sense something of the holiness that permeates this city. Of course, its a city of sinners, but also, one of saints… many, many saints: from the beggar saint, Joseph Labre, to the glorious Apostles themselves, Peter and Paul, whose mighty basilica shrines conceal the fact that they are also paupers’ graves.
Buried within this city are many who witnessed, first hand, the Risen Christ; their fidelity to the Lord, even unto the cruel martyrdoms which many of them met, should give us great hope; and indeed, let’s not forget Rome’s present-day saints. As you enjoy walking around the narrow vincoli of the Centro Storico, or the wide boulevards of the Viminale, keep an eye open and you will witness many acts of saintly heroism, whether in caring for the poor, or in preaching the Gospel to an alienated world: two thousand years later, the faith of the Apostles is alive and well in this place, for this is the Church founded by Christ, upon the Rock, who is Peter.
Our Lord in the Gospel makes it clear: Peter will be the rock, the foundation, upon which He will build His Church; He will give to Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close it to people as he, Peter, sees fit; lastly, He will give to Peter the power to bind or to loose, in the sense of establishing or prohibiting whatever he deems necessary for the life of the Church. Whilst it is always Christ’s Church, not Peter’s, let us, nonetheless, rejoice in the fact that our Communion in Christ makes us members of this Church – the Church – against which “… the gates of Hell shall not prevail.”
I look forward to seeing you all on Monday and assure you all of my love and prayers for a safe journey and a holy pilgrimage.