Archbishop Expresses Thanksgiving for Successful Pallium Pilgrimage

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
3 Jul 2015

Archbishop Fisher holding the pallium presented by Pope Francis in St Peter's Basilica

Following a week of being shepherded through sacred places and treasures of the Catholic Church, culminating in the presentation of the Pallium by Pope Francis, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP celebrated the final Mass and hosted a dinner for the "Pallium Pilgrimage" on Tuesday.

The mass was celebrated in the St Peter Chanel Chapel at Domus Australia. Concelebrants included Bishop Jean Laffitte, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family; Very Rev Wojciech Giertych OP, Theologian of the Papal Household; Vicar General Gerry Gleeson of the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Administrator of the Diocese of Parramatta, Very Rev Peter Williams.

A number of Australian priests and seminarians studying in Rome also attended the Mass which was on the Feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.

During his Homily Archbishop Anthony Fisher said: "Last week, we spiralled down from the twenty-first century in the Basilica of San Clemente through the eleventh, the seventh, the fourth, to the first century AD. Along the way we witnessed the Church's grandeur and danger. On the streets of ancient Rome we glimpsed those early Christians who lived in fear and trepidation, yet with extraordinary courage, fidelity and hope. We celebrated Mass at the tomb of Pope Clement I of Rome and St Ignatius of Antioch, passed 'the Apostles to the Slavs' Sts Cyril and Methodius and saw the Masaccio-painted chapel of the heroic philosopher-martyr St Catherine of Alexandria. And we met the descendants of the Irish Dominicans who fled the British Isles where ordination as a Catholic priest was a death warrant, hoping that one day they might return. All that history and blood was just in one church."

The beautiful frescoes of the 16th Century Casina Pio IV, venue of the thanksgiving dinner

The Archbishop said as Christian disciples, each of us has his or her own path to sanctity by which we join the saints who've gone before us.

"We need twenty-first century saints for Sydney. Hopefully this won't mean being executed, like Peter crucified upside down, or like John the Baptist and Paul beheaded, or like St Clement drowned at sea. But it will require that dying-to-self characteristic of the true Christian and that willingness to profess the faith even when this is unpopular or unlikely to serve our earthly ambitions."

The group then moved to one of the most magnificent venues in Rome - within the Vatican Gardens.

The pilgrims were fortunate to dine in the Casina Pio IV. The Casina Pio IV with its beautiful reception and dining areas is headquartered in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Completed in 1561 as a summer residence for Pope Pius IV and surrounded by the trees and lawns of the Vatican Gardens, the Casina is a well-preserved treasury of 16th century frescoes, stucco reliefs, mosaics and fountains.

Pilgrims reflected on their experiences of the week while dining under the stunning vaulted ceiling with frescoes or near fountains or surrounded by religious art. An ideal venue to reinforce the realisation of just how fortunate everyone had been during the past week.

The ancient basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere

Also attending the dinner was Cardinal George Pell, Vatican Secretary of Economic Affairs; Cardinal Edwin O'Brien Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and Very Rev Lu Ha OP representing the Order of Preachers.

Following the dinner Archbishop addressed the group, thanking them for helping to make the pilgrimage a very special one for him.

"We've been blessed to visit almost every corner of the Vatican City State: St Peter's Basilica, of course, its crypt and dome, its principal relic (the bones of St Peter) and art works such as Michelangelo's pieta; above all we've taken part in two beautiful Masses there, one just for us and one glorious papal liturgy yesterday. We've also seen the Vatican Museum, Library, Gardens and Armoury and now the Casino Paolo IV - something of 'the secret life' of the popes and this tiny state. We've visited the other patriarchal basilicas of Rome, dedicated to St John, St Paul and Mary, as well as the ancient basilicas of St Clement, Sta Maria in Trastevere and Sta Sabina. We've been up the holy stairs and down the scavi, seen Rome from above and below, been received by the Australian Embassy, Santa Croce University, the Dominican Mother House and by the Knights of Malta, and also visited Orvieto and Assisi. It sounds impossible to do so much in a week…

"Amongst the saints we have encountered along the way are: Peter and Paul, Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Sabina and all the other early martyrs of Rome; Cyril, Methodius, Basil and other saints of the patristic period; Francis, Claire, Dominic, Thomas Aquinas, Beato Angelico, Adrian Fortescue and Pius V of the Mediaeval and Renaissance times; Peter Chanel, Josemaria Escriva, John XXIII and John Paul II of the modern era - to name a few. We've heard their challenge to us time and time again: there are many ways to be a saint: which will you be?

Thanksgiving Mass at the St Peter Chanel chapel at Domus Australia in Rome

"To have celebrated Mass twice at the tomb of St Peter, once below and once above, once intimately by ourselves and once with his successor and thousands of others, has been an enormous privilege. We've gained a real sense of the antiquity and modernity of the Church, of its continuity through the ages, of its Gospel and above all its God, who is as St Augustine said 'ever-ancient, ever new'. We've also had the pleasure of getting to know each other better too.

"Yesterday before Mass Pope Francis came along to speak to each one of us in turn. He reminded me that I was a Dominican and very young; I reminded him that I was Jesuit educated and that the job his pallium represented would age me quickly. After Mass he gave each of us the pallium he had blessed, now wrapped up like a box of chocolates, with a mandate from him to the Apostolic Nuncio in Australia to impose it on me when I returned. In case any of you doesn't know already, you are all invited to that Mass on the Feast of St James the Apostle, 25 July, at St Mary's Cathedral at 10am."

Read the full text of the Archbishop's homily here

Read the full text of the Archbishop's thanksgiving address here