Pilgrims explore shared Christian heritage

Representatives from Farm Street Church and Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair joined together for a pilgrimage to Rome, focusing on Early Christian art and architecture, years and heritage the two congregations share as Roman Catholics and Anglicans.

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, George McCombe, and Patricia Morgan, from Farm Street, were together with other four pilgrims from Grosvenor Chapel, for the week-long visit, which started on the 29th April.

Steven Fachada, Co- Master of Ceremonies at Farm Street Church, who is also an art historian and classicist, led the group through various places in the city.

The first day proved to be a remarkable start. Beginning with a visit to Santa Sabina, with prayers in the cell of St Dominic on occasion of Fr Dominic’s birthday, it then followed with mass at the Anglican Centre in Rome, with later a visit to Santa Maria Maggiore, where there are relics of the Nativity, including remnants of the manger, the byzantine icon of the Madonna and child known as ‘Salus Populi Romani’ (Salvation of the Roman People) and the tunicle of Saint Thomas Becket.

“No wonder we have some exhilarated pilgrims, with tired legs! Many thanks to Steven Fachada, our excellent guide” reads the post on the Grosvenor Chapel’s Facebook page featuring some photos of the tour.

Photo Credit: Grosvenor Chapel

On the next day, the group moved to the second millennium of the history of Rome. In the morning, they visited sites associated with St Ignatius of Loyola, with mass celebrated in the cell where the founder of the Society of Jesus died. There was opportunity to see some artefacts of the saint and sensing the cruciform simplicity of his life. Later, they moved to the Cappella Farnesina, where paintings about St Ignatius’s life can be admired, followed by a visit to the Chiesa del Gesù, the mother Church of the Society of Jesus, where the ornate and majestic tomb of St Ignatius lies. The afternoon was spent in the Jewish Ghetto, with a talk on the place of the Jews in the life of Ancient Rome and Early Christianity.

One of the highlights was the visit to San Gregorio Magno, where Fr Richard Fermer celebrated mass on the feast of Saint Athanasius. The church contains Saint Gregory the Great’s cathedra throne and a Canterbury Cross, presented by the Canterbury Cathedral, as the pope launched the mission to England. According to Bede’s ‘History of the English People’, he had seen English slaves paraded in Rome and said, “These are not Angles, but angels” and, from that point, he has wished to help that people.

Fr Dominic said: “We worshipped together with joy as Anglicans and Roman Catholics at San Gregorio Magno in Coelo, a place which brought us back to our common origins as English Christians. It was from here that Pope Gregory sent St Augustine and his monks to bring Christianity to England in 597, almost 1,000 years between the schism of the Reformation. Despite the pain of separation, our communion, however imperfect in these times, is real, as it is rooted in our common mission going back to this earlier moment in history when the call to evangelise our country was made.”

On the final day of the joint pilgrimage, the group was treated to a wonderfully inspiring visit to the Venerable English College, guided through its treasures and history by Professor Maurice Whitehead, and given a warm welcome by Mgr Philip Whitmore, the Rector. The Jesuits in Britain and of The Italian Province governed the College for 200 years, there was so a lot of Jesuit history too intertwined. “It was a great pleasure to celebrate mass there for the feast of SS Philip and James and to connect with the martyrs of the College as we explored what martyrdom and witness to Christ meant in Early Church Rome, in the Reformation period and for Christians’ togetherness today,” reflected Fr Dominic.