Staying at the Pope’s house.

I lived at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican for 7 years. It’s great to be back. Unlike then, it’s now where the Pope lives. After the conclave which elected him Pope, Papa Francesco chose not to move to the Apostolic Palace but to remain here. His few rooms are on the second floor.

In Italy most people remain with the same employer for their entire working life. There is not a churn in staff. That’s the same at Casa Santa Marta and so there’s a family atmosphere. I feel I’ve been welcomed ‘home’ by the staff.

Tonight we had the Prayer Vigil for the opening of the Synod. Angela from the laundry had kindly ironed my soutane so it was time to tog up. On the steps outside St Peter’s Basilica where we assembled I spotted Cardinal John Dew and John and Kerry Kleinsman and Sharron Cole, the NZ participants. We had a catch up chat and made a few plans for the week. The Vigil took the form of readings and prayers interspersed with testimonies from three families. Then as Papa Francesco joined the service we lit candles – the packed piazza full of families and communities was aglow at sunset creating a wonderful atmosphere in which to chant the evocative Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit). The Holy Father in his homily described the Church as an ‘open home’ in the sense he has underlined many times: a place where everyone is welcome and should feel at ease.