A letter from the rector of Domus Australia

As we approach the first anniversary of opening the doors for business, it is not the first time that I have reflected on what a big year it has been for all involved in the inauguration of Domus Australia.

I first saw the site that is now Domus Australia in November 2008 when showed around by Fr Adrian Ckuj RIP, who was then Cardinal Pell’s legal representative in Rome. It was hard to imagine that anything could be done to resurrect it from the state it was in. In this respect the words of the Latin saying could be applied to Cardinal Pell who was the visionary and driving force behind the project: “Urbem lateritiam inuenit, marmoream reliquit.” (He found a city of bricks and left a city of marble)

The finished product which one encounters today at Via Cernaia, 14/B Roma is a veritable city of marble; from the travertine portico surrounding the courtyard through corridors, staircases and paving to the polychrome floor of the chapel. Of course, it goes without saying that in Italy marble is used as much for its low price as for its beauty.

On Wednesday 19th October 2011 at 5:30pm along with the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, I found myself in the almost surreal position, as rector of Domus Australia, of being able to welcome Pope Benedict XVI into the marble halls of the chapel of St Peter Chanel.

After a moment of prayer in front of the tabernacle, accompanied by the voices of the St Mary’s Cathedral Choir, an address from His Eminence and a meditation from the Holy Father, I joined the Cardinal in guiding the Pope around the cloister as he blessed the buildings and various religious artworks. The visit was planned to take 45 minutes and I can say that 45 minutes after his arrival we were ushering him to the front doors of the reception.

Before he left we had him sign our guest book and I was able to thank him personally for the reform of the reform in the liturgy which he has fostered in the Church.

The visit of Pope Benedict was a singular honour and is certainly unique in the present papacy. In his address to the assembled guests on that unforgettable evening the successor of St Peter quoted the German poet Goethe in saying that parents should give to their children both roots and wings. He drew the analogy with the Church our mother who through the apostles gives us the roots of our faith and through the Holy Spirit enables us to have the wings to bear us aloft on our journey to our earthly and heavenly homelands.

The Holy Father promised to pray for those who would come through our doors. May all who either stay at or visit this “little corner of Australia in Rome” as the Pope described Domus Australia, find here a place where the faith of the Apostles is lived and the grace of the Holy Spirit experienced.

Rev Anthony Denton is a priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, and was rector of Domus Australia until 2012. He is presently earning a Doctorate in Rome.