I just got back from a short business trip to Europe, including a few wonderful days in Rome. Rome is one of my favorite cities in the world. I was fortunate enough to have lived there for seven years as a student. We always stay in the Hassler Hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps. It has a magnificent view of the Eternal City.
Rome has it all. In the same vista you can see the proud pillars of the Pagan Roman Empire, the magnificent Circus Maximus where the chariots raced, the spectacular remains of the Imperial Palace on the Palatine Hill and, of course, the Colisseum. And then there is Christian Rome with its myriad of aging cupolas placed on top of basilicas and churches, designed by some of the greatest architects over the centuries, protecting some of the most beautiful paintings ever created, temples of worship, prayer and silence. And beside Campo dei Fiori the flourishing Jewish Quarters full of energy, industry and pride.
While we were there the new Prime Minister was sworn in at the President’s Palace on the Quirinale. There have been more Prime Ministers sworn in since World War II than years between then and now! A man shot at the police outside the Parliament on the same day out of frustration at the austerity demands from the Italian government. We walked by the Academy of Santa Cecilia and we could hear through each open window young budding musicians playing pianos or violins or bases or trombones. And newly elected Pope Francis caused havoc with the traffic by unexpectedly deciding to visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major to meet with the local parishoners.
We had dinner with my lifelong friend, Bishop Brian Farrell. Brian lives in the Vatican and is in charge of the Vatican’s relations with all Christian religions and Judaism. He told us how the Pope still will not move into the Papal apartment. He refuses to sit for an official photo. And he has informed all his fellow bishops working in the Vatican that they will have their jobs for another six months, and then he will make changes! A pretty good omen for the future of the Catholic Church!
Perhaps Rome is, indeed, just a microcosm of the world at large. Yet it is a city teeming with energy, passion, art, love and history. You never get bored in Rome.