Twinning with Italian Churches
Since Easter 2000, the diocese of Saint Albans has been twinned with three Roman Catholic dioceses in the Marche region on the Adriatic coast of Italy.
As part of this ecumenical venture, our parish is twinned with the parish of Cuccurano near Fano. On half a dozen occasions, groups from our parishes have visited each other and shared worship while there have been other informal visits by individuals.
Our partnership with a church in a foreign country and from a different tradition has been a source of inspiration for the whole parish and we have formed close friendships with the parish priest and the members of his church.
Our latest exchange involved meeting for a week in an Italian diocesan retreat house situated high up in the Dolomites in a mountain resort called Pozza di Fossa. 3 English parishes took up the invitation including Bengeo with a party of 6. We were joined by representatives from Bishops Stortford and Sharnbrook in Bedfordshire.
After a short flight from Stansted, our party was met at Verona airport by our Italian friends from Cuccurano and installed in the parish minibuses which were to take us to Pozza , a journey of over 3 hours, and to ferry us around during the week. Pozza is spectacularly situated surrounded by mountains, and the retreat house, the Villa San Carlo, proved to be a large alpine chalet on the edge of the small town with breathtaking views of the mountains.
Largely sunny weather enabled us to go on some magnificent high altitude walks which took us close to the incredibly jagged peaks which are characteristic of the area and to explore the alpine forest surrounding an unbelievably turquoise lake. We were also able to visit the ancient city of Trento with its castle and cathedral and Bolzano with its museum dedicated to Otzi, the Copper age hunter, whose body had been preserved by a glacier for 5000 years prior to its discovery 20 years ago.
The Villa San Carlo possesses a simple but beautiful chapel in the basement and each morning both English and Italians met to share morning prayer before breakfast. On alternate evenings, we participated in either a Roman Catholic mass or an Anglican eucharist before dinner.
The total experience of living together, walking together and praying together was wonderfully enriching and made us more than ever aware that we are all fellow pilgrims seeking the same goal even if our paths occasionally diverge.
As ever, we were bowled over both by the warmth of our hosts’ hospitality and their passionate desire to advance the cause of church unity.
The Last Supper relief
This plaque in gesso derives its inspiration from the famous mural on the theme of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. It was presented by the parish of Cuccurano on the occasion of the 150th anniverary of Holy Trinity on 22nd May 2005.