An Aussie Home Away From Home in Rome

Pilgrimage Center Renovation Under Way

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ROME, JULY 14, 2009 ( Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell expressed his delight at progress on the creation of a center for Australian pilgrims in Rome.

The Australia House, or Domus Australis, is being established in a late 19th-century building close to the Termini train station. The site was acquired last year by Australian Catholics in Rome, who were encouraged by the Sydney Archdiocese.

The building, formerly used by the Marist Fathers, has a number of rooms and a chapel, but it is being renovated so as to serve pilgrims.

«It has been a long-term ambition to establish a center for Australian pilgrims in Rome — we would like tourists to have a genuine pilgrimage,» Cardinal Pell said. «We are entering into an important new stage with the start of renovation works of the chapel and the pilgrim house.

«This is the result of over two years of detailed planning by our architects and expert advisors.»

Construction required the customary sample digs to look for archeological finds from ancient Rome. Remains of a first-century house and pavement were discovered, and will be made visible to pilgrims who stay at the center.

Renovation is programmed to finish late next year and the center will open in early 2011.

Meanwhile in Sydney, Paul Newton was hired to produce 35 paintings for the chapel’s walls.

Newman explained, «There will be pictures of saints and people relevant to the Catholic Church in Australia so much of the work so far has been research. That has to be right before you can start painting, especially as most of the people involved are not around to meet or sketch.»

When Australia House opens it will accommodate between 80 and 90 pilgrims. There will be rooms for single pilgrims and families, entertainment areas and daily Mass in English.

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