ROME–After a full day and night of travel, pilgrims of the Denver Archdiocese’s trip to the canonization of Pope’s John XXIII and John Paul II arrived to Rome this morning, April 26, and immediately took in a full day of sightseeing.
Upon their arrival to the Eternal City, the archdiocese’s 30 pilgrims were joined by a dozen faithful and their pastor from Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina, Minn., and a couple of pilgrims from Michigan and Georgia.
Then, led by fearless guide Flavio Nicoletti, the pilgrims visited the Pantheon, a temple built to the Roman gods in the year 126 but that today honors the true God as a Catholic church called St. Mary and the Martyrs; the Spanish Steps, the widest staircase in Europe; the Trevi Fountain, which collects some $30,000 a year for charity due to the legend that if one tosses a coin into the fountain wishing to return to the Eternal City they will; and the Four Rivers Fountain, which represents four major rivers of the world – the Nile in Africa, the Danube in Europe, the Ganges in Asia and the Rio de la Plata (or Platte) in the Americas.
“Just be aware that this ‘Platte’ isn’t the river in Colorado,” Father Bob Amundsen, spiritual director for the archdiocese’s pilgrims noted with a chuckle. Rather, it’s a river that borders Argentina and Uruguay in South America.
The travelers ended the day with Mass at St. Lucia Church and dinner at a charming family-owned Italian restaurant.
Although sleep deprived and fatigued – and despite the fact they need to leave before the sun comes up tomorrow to head to St. Peter’s Square in hopes of getting into or at least near the square, which is expected to be overwhelmed with some 3 million people that will likely flood surrounding streets as well — the pilgrims are eager for the historic canonization.
Many of the Denver pilgrims said they had been touched by John Paul II during Denver’s World Youth Day 1993. Others added they admire “Good Pope John” XXIII for being the instrument of the Holy Spirit that convened the Second Vatican Council. The pilgrims are also looking foward to seeing Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“The Church has never canonized two popes at once before,” noted guide Nicoletti.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Bill Lucero of Holy Name Church in Denver. “It’s history making!”