6th May 2011
So, again we appear at the Sacristy to the left of the Basilica. The nice Swiss boys in felt uniforms direct us to the security, the security directs us to the sacristy – and we direct ourselves to the robing room where the priesthood are getting ready for a service in the Basilica. They are not concerned by our inappropriate presence, and a nice African priest takes us back down some corridors to try to find the redoubtable Don Bruno Vercesi. He has scuttled off to find us and we have passed in different corridors. Eventually all the parties meet and we begin a talk with Don Bruno, who is indeed a charming rather hard of hearing senior priest. He registers us with much questioning about the journey we have done and the journey to come. He is indeed very interested in the journey to Jerusalem– and we promise to tell him more as time goes on. Don Bruno takes us to the crypt museum – where the earliest evidence of St Peter’s tomb is said to lie. We see the orange wall hidden away behind more modern works. Don Bruno tells us that protestants have indicated that St Peter indeed never came to Rome…this is something which has clearly scandalised him personally – and indeed hurt him. I have much sympathy for that hurt, but retain my scepticism that then remains found are adequate proof of Peter’s presence and indeed the papal succession. We go into the St. Columbus’ chapel, built we gather by the Irish Church. Strange to see Celtic Christians represented in the depths of St Peter’s. Don Bruno reads to us a section from Acts of the Apostles – and questions us about the resurrection. Renewal. Actually I don’t find this or his very sincere and deeply felt blessing (assuring us, as if necessary that he was fully ordained!) in any way inappropriate.
We then find our way out, bid farewell to Don Bruno and begin to leave the inner sanctum, with a couple of photos.
Then it is off to the Via Appia – on foot. So across Rome East, past the Coliseum and the Thermae and then on to the extremely busy approaches to the Via Appia. There is a transport strike and even the ancient gates have queues. Leaving the walls, and setting off past the 1st Mile Marker there is still a lot of traffic. We enter the Catacombs of Callisto – the English Language tour has a couple of Ozzies who insist on asking questions requiring no answer (its nice to be able to rib them about the cricket though!), and a new Middle Class Indian family – whose numerous children are completely feral, especially the 5-year-old boy! The fay Sri Lankan guide can’t really cope, but delivers his tour on the run! A bit disappointing – and even a little disrespectful to the place but we can have another go one day.
Back on to the Via Appia, we walk down some of the first kilometres – already hot, and have the reward of a beer in the bar back by the bus stop. Rome is done! Pilgrimmed, walked, crossed and completed.
The way to the South is now open to us.
Some pleasant socialising with Fiamma on the highest possible apartment inRome, with views of Victor Emanuel, and just of the Coliseo. Then we accept the end of this stage. Back to Switzerland with the bikes, and a few organisations and adventures before the return to the Via Appia.