Report of a scholarship holder on the study and pilgrimage to Rome

|   Aktuelles, Seminare, Veranstaltungen

Every year, the "Rome trip" takes KAAD scholarship holders to the sources of the Christian faith and to the centre of the Global Church. Prayers and church services in the catacombs, in Santa Sabina and with the community of Sant' Egidio as well as participation in the audience of Pope Francis are therefore part of the journey.

Our study and pilgrimage trip to Rome began with a delicious pizza. During diner, we were presented with the programme for the week by our tour guides - the two spiritual advisors of KAAD, Prof. Dr Thomas Eggensperger OP and Prof. Dr Ulrich Engel OP.

The next day began with a Holy Mass in the chapel of the hostel. This marked the official beginning of the pilgrimage and we prayed for the well-being of all. We then visited the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia built in the eighth century AD in the so-called Borgo, which served as a charitable institution for German-speaking pilgrims. Surprisingly, there was the possibility of a short visit to the Generalate of the Society of Jesus! Thanks to Fr Benjamin Crespo SJ, Vice-Postulator for the Canonisation of Latin American Jesuits, we were able to enjoy a privileged view of St Peter's Square and the magnificent Basilica of St Peter from the building's roof terrace, which we then visited and where each and every one of us was able to experience the beauty and spiritual grandeur of the place. The scholars also had the opportunity to climb the dome of St Peter's and enjoy the panoramic view over Rome and into the Vatican Gardens.

In the afternoon, we visited the German Embassy to the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta, where the group had an enriching conversation with Dr Bernhard Kotsch, German Ambassador, and the Spiritual Counsellor of the Embassy, Oliver Lahl. The conversation focused on the diplomatic tasks of the Embassy as well as - continuing the theme of the KAAD Annual Convention 2023 - the animated discussion on global perspectives in caring for the "common home", as Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical "Laudato si'" (2015).

The third day began with a visit to the Vatican Museums - a unique experience of viewing masterpieces from different ages - and especially the Sistine Chapel. In the afternoon, we took a walk through the picturesque streets of Rome's historic centre, visiting the first branch of the Sapienza University, Piazza Navona, the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone and the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, among others.

One of the most eagerly awaited moments of the trip was the Holy Father's general audience, which took place on the fourth day in the great audience hall. It was a moment of joy and jubilation that will be remembered by all. In the afternoon of the same day, during a visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, there was a completely unexpected second encounter with the Pope - now at close quarters. Traditionally, Pope Francis retreats to pray in the presence of the icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani ("Salvation of the Roman People") one day before a trip. On the eve of his planned trip to Mongolia, he did so at the very time we were making our tour there. The day ended with an exploration of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.

The fifth day began with a visit to the Calixtus Catacombs, one of the first official cemeteries of the Roman Christian community and also the burial place of several popes from the third century. The students walked through the catacombs and gained a deeper understanding of the life and burial rituals of early Christianity. The visit there ended with the celebration of Holy Mass in the depths of the catacombs: in memory of the pioneers of the Roman Catholic faith and the "Catacomb Pact" for a Church of the Poor concluded in a neighbouring catacomb by forty Council bishops in 1965.

We then took a break on the beaches of Lido di Ostia and in the afternoon explored the ruins of the ancient city of Ostia. Father Eggensperger explained the main buildings and public life in a city of the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries B.C. He and Father Engel alternated in the guided tours of Rome throughout the week. In addition, there were short and informative inputs from the students.

At the end of the day, the participants prayed together with the Catholic lay movement of Sant'Egidio in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere and experienced a beautiful moment of thanksgiving to God in the evening prayer.

On Friday morning, the scholarship holders were welcomed by Prof. Sr Dr Helen Alford OP at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, also known as the "Angelicum". Sr Alford is the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and, as of this year, also President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. She received us in the same lecture hall where Pope John Paul II defended his doctoral thesis as a young priest. Afterwards we visited Il Gesù, quasi the mother church of the Jesuits.

In the afternoon, we went to the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine and to the attached convent of the Dominican Order, which is also the seat of the General Curia. Father Dr Pablo Sicouly OP, Socius of the Master of the Order for the Intellectual Life of the Dominicans all over the world, explained the history and significance of this place. In the so-called cell of St Dominic we celebrated the final Mass of our trip. The day ended with a traditional Italian 'aperitivo' not far from the popular Campo dei Fiori.

The last day began with a shared reflection on our experiences of the week. After a blessing over the various devotional items bought by the students as souvenirs for their loved ones and a travel blessing, we headed straight to the airport.

Our study and pilgrimage trip to Rome left a deep impression in the hearts and minds of the scholars. It offered us an unforgettable spiritual and cultural experience that strengthened our connection to the history of the Catholic Church and to our respective faiths.

Pedro A. Romero
Doctoral Student at the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Studies
Bauhaus University Weimar

[Translate to Englisch:]

View of St. Peter's Basilica on the roof of the Jesuit General Council

[Translate to Englisch:]

Meeting with Dr Pablo Sicouly OP, Deputy Master of the Dominican Order

[Translate to Englisch:]

Meeting with Dr Bernhard Kotsch, German Ambassador to the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta and with Oliver Lahl, Spiritual Counsellor of the Embassy.

[Translate to Englisch:]

The group immediately before the Pope's audience

[Translate to Englisch:]

Meeting with Pope Francis

[Translate to Englisch:]

The Pope's audience

[Translate to Englisch:]