The Vatican Railway Station: off to Assisi

2011-10-27 Vatican Radio

The Vatican Railway Station is usually quite a dull place, mainly used for good trains. But on Thursday 27th October an exceptional air of excitement will pervade the air and a splash of colour will invade the platform . Benedict XVI will board a train there which will make its way to the Umbrian hill top town of Assisi where Saint Francis once lived and prayed. But not just Benedict , with him the various delegations of different religions who will attend the 2011 “Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace”,pilgrimage. Among them Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and other representatives of different religious traditions. Hence the colourful picture I mentioned or rather imagined. This railway came into being through the signing of the Lateran Pacts when the Pope of the time Pius XI, founder of our radio station, was able to reach an agreement with the Italian State to set up iup a Vatican railway . Although by the way he himself never travelled on it. Curiously an earlier Pope, Pius IX often travelled by train across the Papal States. Naturally before the loss of temporal power in 1870. So the first Pope to use this railway station for passenger traffic was Pope John XXIII on the occasion of a pilgrimage to Loreto and Assisi on the 4th October 1962 “ to ask for heavenly help”, on the eve of the inaugural date of the Second Vatican Council. It would begin a week later . Of course it has since been used as a passenger train first by Blessed John Paul II , the first occasion time being in November 1979 , and on another occasion on a pilgrimage to Assisi on the 24th January 2002 and then by our present Pope . He too has used it on many an occasion , so Thursday’s train ride will not mark a first. Point of fact , the Vatican Railway Station and line sounds a bit exaggerated. It’s only one branch line in the Vatican and 180 metres long; by British standard that’s around 197 yards. So not even as long as Saint Peter’s Basilica which is a good deal more! Of course it’s connected to the Italian Railway system and the link up with Rome outside the gates is a bit longer, roughly 150 metres taken up in great part by a long travertine viaduct which anyone in Rome can spy . One which goes by the wonderful name of ‘Gelsomino’, meaning Jasmine! If you happen to be curious about the entrance from Rome to the Vatican, it’s through a massive iron gate in the Vatican Walls which is only opened when a train is expected, no little barriers there for trains that as I mentioned earlier are mainly goods trains. After all the Vatican needs plenty of supplies as there are shops there. In fact the station itself has been turned into a shop ! A pity in my opinion for such a lovely station in the typical 1930’s architecture with a fountain in front . I'm Veronica Scarisbrick Listen : 00:03:31:90