Some "behind the scene" views of the Vatican

Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St Peter

Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St Peter
Sistine Chapel (Pietro Perugino – “Christ Handing the Keys of the Kingdom to Saint Peter” C.1475)

En-route into the Vatican Studios of Vatican Radio, to conduct the English language commentary of the Papal Mass from the Basilica of St John Lateran today, the Thirsd Sunday in Advent, during which the Holy Father opened the Holy Door of that Basilica; our own transitional parish deacon, Phil Andrews, studying at the Venerable English College in Rome, took these early-morning views of his walk from the College to Vatican City. Many of these places are not open to the public for security reasons becasue of their proximity to the Apostolic Palace, and Secretariat of State.
St John Lateran is the preeminent Church of the Christian world, being the Pope’s own Cathedral as Bishop of Rome, containing as it does his Cathedra, or seat, which is the sign of his teaching authority. Inscribed on the great facade of this building, originally built by the Emperor Constantine in AD324, are the words: Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput (which in England are rendered: “The Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the City and the world, the mother and head”. It was this celebration today which inaugurated the opening of the Holy Doors in Cathedrals around the world, including that of our own Cathedral Church of St George in Southwark.
Most of Deacon Phil’s current pastoral work in Rome is with Vatican Radio, part of which involves English language commentaries for Papal events, which are then carried by such media outlets as EWTN. Deacon Phil, and his colleague at the VEC, Deacon David Howell from St Raphael’s in Surbiton are due to be ordained to the Priesthood in Southwark Cathedral this coming 16 July, alongside Daniel Weatherly from Tunbridge Wells.

San Giovanni dei Fiorentini (This church, at the head of the via Giulia, has been designated the primary church for English-speaking pilgrims during the Jubilee of Mercy. During this year, Both Deacon Phil and Deacon David will officiate at Holy Hours and Devotions in Latin and English, for the English-speaking pilgrims in Rome. Holy Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation will also be available in English in this church. Note the humourous grafitti on the “No Entry” sign. The Romans invented grafitti over two thousand years ago. Without it, we may never have found St Peter’s tomb, which was identified by the presence of grafiti on a red wall enclosing his secret shrine!

Looking across towards the Castel Sant’Angelo (originally the Mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, c.AD134), the ancient Ponte Sant’Angelo (also constructed in AD134 for the Emperor Hadrian, and which is now surmounted by beautiful angels, carved during the Renaissance, some by Bernini), and in the foreground, the Ponte Vittorio Emanuelle II, built in the C19 following the unification of Italy under the Crown of the Savoyards.

Two views of St Peter’s Square, showing the Crib and Christmas Tree. Note the heightened security around Vatican City. In recent days, The Holy Father, the Vaticam, and Rome itself have been explicitly theatened by ISIS in a number of terrifying videos showing the city’s destruction. This, however, has deterred neither the Holy Father, nor the citizens of Rome, from carrying on with their lives, in spite of the increased security everywhere.


Porta Sant’Anna, the “Tradesman’s Entrance” to Vatican City, and used by all employees.


The Belvedere Courtyard, adjacent to the Apostolic Palace and Secretariat of State. Note the top of the cupola of St Peter’s just above what is in effect the liturgical south wall of the Sistine Chapel.


Three views of the First Loggia of the St Damasus Courtyard


Three views of the Sala Ducale



Two views of the Sala Regia, looking towards the Pauline Chapel, a private chapel of the Pope, which contains frescoes by Michelangelo, dating from 1541


Another view of the Sala Regia, looking away from the Pauline Chapel


A view of the door into the Sistine Chapel from the Sala Regia. It is this door which is ceremonially sealed when the Cardinals are in Conclave.


A fresco in the Sala Regia — the Return of Pope Gregory XI from Avignon (Giorgio Vasari, c.1572)


The Great Loggia of the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, looking liturgical north


The Great Loggia of the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, the window in the centre of the facade from which the Holy Father imparts his blessing to the City and the World: Urbi et Orbi


The Great Loggia of the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, looking into the basilica


The Great Loggia of the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, the throne


The modest sound booths, located behind the throne, and over the Arch of the Bells, of the facade of St Peter’s. It is from here that all commentaries are given in the various languages, regardless of where the Holy Father himself may be.


A view into St Peter’s Square from the Facade of St Peter’s (window beneath the Arch of the Bells)


Deacon Phil Andrews working hard during a Papal Mass commentary!


Santas waiting to undertake a charity bike ride in via della Conciliazione. Note the everyday sign directing tourists to the priceless frescoes by Raphael in the Villa Farnesina. Of course, the Stanze delle Segnatura within the Vatican are really the place to see Raphael at his best, notably, the “Disputation of the Holy Sacrament”, and the “School of Athens”.

Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, calls us to a special care for the poor.
As a hall-mark of this pontificate, the Poor are already a planned feature of our
Year of Renewal, and our Parish has a dozen current projects for the poor and needy:
6 months rental for a homeless Parishioner; Clothes for babies saved from abortion:
Pre-Advent (& pre-Lent) Charity Fayres; Concert & Collection for Filipino typhoon victim;
Part-funding abuse victim parishioners for the Grief to Grace programme; SVP outreach
Christmas gifts for needy children; Ecumenical Winter Homeless Night Shelter;
the local Food Bank; Street Pastors; our on-going ACN and other overseas projects, etc.

Benvenuti nella "Città Eterna!"

The Church of the Most Holy Trinity at the Venerable English College in Rome, looking towards the “Martyrs’ Picture” from the Tribune

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.


Synod of Bishops on the Family 2014

Family life will be the focus of an extraordinary general session of the Synod of Bishops that will meet at the Vatican between 5-19 October 2014. Around 150 Synod fathers will take part in the meeting to discuss the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” It is expected to last two weeks.
The Bishops’ Conference has prepared resources where one may read a full introduction, download the synod’s preparatory document – or Lineamenta – and most importantly,  respond to an online questionnaire in preparation for the 2014 Synod. Click here to prepare your questionnaire response. (They’ve also provided a link to the last Synod of Bishops meeting on the family held in 1980 that resulted in the document Familiaris Consortio.)


In preparation for responding to this questionnaire, Catholic commentators have made reference to this initiative, and you might like to read their opinions, here:
Fr Ray Blake
Protect the Pope