Friday 13 June 2014

A delightful evening

Extraordinary visit to the Vatican yesterday - because of the opportunity, as a council, to say a very informal hello to pope Benedict XVI, who was taking his evening walk outside his retirement monastery. We found him rather bent and frail, but with his memory completely intact. He remembered Ratisbonne very well, and the meeting that he participated in (1994), but did not know that the Salesians had moved in there, and was happy to know that we now have our theology house there.

It's another thing that he found it difficult to believe that I was Indian. But then popes are not infallible. John Paul II asked me whether I was from Kerala.

And then the evening on the terrace of our Salesian house in the Vatican: a place of extraordinary beauty, well-cared for, with the kind of olive trees and roses in flower that you see in certain Roman movies of a certain era, and an extraordinary and unique view of the Vatican city and of Rome: an Apostolic Palace that is now quite empty and shut down in its upper floors, a little party going on on another terrace, much lower than ours, perhaps part of the St Anna parish run by the Augustinians for people of the quartiere, and so on.

The Vatican City is quite a place: small from the outside, a whole world inside. Extraordinarily well kept gardens, very normal looking people seemingly taking evening walks, the gendarmeria, the occasional Swiss guard, including one outside St Martha's....

A great evening, also because of the warm hospitality of our salesian community at the Vatican, consisting of a few Italian confreres, one from Vietnam and one from Spain, and the very pleasant and simple presence of Cardinal Raffaele Farina and Bishop Mario Toso.

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