Barely three weeks after Pope Benedict XV1's State Visit to the United Kingdom, 36 members of the Friends of the Holy Father met Pope Benedict again in Rome. The group, led by their honorary secretary Dr Michael Straiton with spiritual director Fr William Wilby, were on pilgrimage visiting places associated with John Henry Newman, who was beatified by the Pope at Cofton Park on 19 September.
The Friends were given seats by the stage near the Holy Father at the Wednesday Audience at St Peter's and Dr Straiton had the privilege of being introduced to the Pope afterwards.
Dr Straiton writes: We were met at the Vatican Museums by the Director Dr Arnold Nesselrath, who recently curated the exhibition at the V&A where the Vatican's Raphael tapestries were hung next to the Raphael cartoons. We were given a private tour of the Vatican Museums where, in the restoration laboratory, we saw our gift of the laser machine that is used for delicate cleaning of frescoes ancient sculptures and even paper items.
We also visited Vatican Radio. The Friends have provided funds to replace a 150K watt transmitter that covers most of Europe . We were met by Sean Patrick Lovett, the director of the English section, at the Palazzo Pio, the Radio's central office near St Peter's, who showed us around the station .The hub of all activities for Vatican radio staff, is in the Chapel of the Annunciation, where the day begins with early Mass and ends with the Rosary .
HM Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, welcomed us at his residence at the Palazzo Pallavicini on the Quirinal Hill for a reception in the rooftop Cassino dell'Aurora with its panoramic view of Rome at sunset.
Newman was ordained a Catholic priest in the College of Propaganda Fide, the centre of the Church's worldwide missionary activities, where he studied for a year. The Friends heard Mass in the chapel where Newman had celebrated his first Mass in May 1846. We then visited the ancient church of San Giorgio in Velabro which served as his titular church when he was created Cardinal in May 1879.
The Friends of the Holy Father is a British registered charity - number 280489 For more information contact: The Friends of the Holy Father, 23a, Vincent House, Vincent Square, London SW1P 2NB