Schwarzenbach lecture focuses on Jesuit History in Rome

Fr Robert Persons, venerable college rome
Fr Robert Persons SJ
The 1st of May saw the second in a series of lectures at the Venerable English College in Rome, hosted by Maurice Whitehead. Its to celebrate aspects of the history of the VEC and of the English and Welsh Catholic community, as well as to salute the munificence of Urs and Francesca Schwarzenbach as major donors to the VEC. 
 
The archives at the VEC date back to the foundation of the English Hospice in Rome in 1362 and constitute the oldest British archive outside the United Kingdom.  In 1579, the English Hospice (for pilgrims from England and Wales) was converted into a seminary on the same site – and it has continued to have that function down to the present day.  Currently, there are some 40 students from England (and one from Denmark) in residence and studying for the priesthood.
 
The 2016 Lecture, the second in the series, was a sequel to the first and was entitled “‘Established and putt in good order’: the Venerable English College, Rome, under Jesuit administration, 1579–1773”.  The quotation within the title is taken from the writings of Fr Robert Persons, SJ (1546–1610), twice rector of the VEC (1588–89 and 1598–1610), who died in office at the VEC, where he is buried.  Fr Persons was the founder of the English College, Valladolid (1589), the English College, Seville (1592), the English Hospice at Sanlúcar de Barrameda (1592), near Cádiz, and St Omers College (1593), in the Spanish Netherlands, which survives today as Stonyhurst College. The Lecture provided an overview of what happened to the VEC during the 194 years of Jesuit administration of the College and concluded that Robert Persons's view that it had been "established and putt in good order" at an early date was an accurate assessment of the whole period under review.
 
This year’s guests included a number from the Vatican Curia -- Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Cardinal James Michael Harvey, Archpriest of St Paul’s Basilica, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. 
Other guests included Archbishop Sir David Moxon, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, and a number of Jesuit guests – Fr Terence Howard (Irish Province), Fr Gerard Whelan (Gregorian University) and Brother Ken Vance.
 
A highlight of the evening was the display of the gown and slippers of Fr Lorenzo Ricci (1703–1775), the 18th Superior General of the Society of Jesus (1758–1773), who was arrested in Rome at the moment of the Suppression of the Society in August 1773 and immediately taken as a prisoner to the Venerable English College, where he was held captive for over a month: from there, he was transferred to a cell in the Castel Sant’Angelo where he died two years later. Fr Ricci was divested of his Jesuit gown and slippers at the time of his arrest – and these were salvaged by the Rome-based English Jesuit, Fr John Thorpe (1726–1792).  On his death, he bequeathed the garment and slippers to Henry Arundell (1740–1808), 8th Baron Arundell of Wardour, whose family in 1854 donated the items to Stonyhurst College, where they are preserved today.  Thanks to the help of Jan Graffius, curator of Special Collections at Stonyhurst, it was possible to display the items in Rome for the first time since 1773.