The participants of the Forge 06/22 had a memorable pilgrimage to Rome, walking the footsteps of Saints Peter and Paul, of the early Christian community and their martyrs in Rome, and of Father Claret who spent considerable time in Rome.
The pilgrimage, undertaken from 12 to 19 of November, was programmed as the core experience of the second phase of the Forge Encounter – Caritas Christi — wherein the participants lived the second process of transformation in the Querida Congregación key: “Rooted in Christ as a Community of Brothers in Faith, Witnesses and Messengers of the Gospel.” This is the first time the Forge Group has undertaken a pilgrimage to Rome as part of their experience. In the previous years, the groups visited the Holy Land to walk the footsteps of Jesus Christ. However, the logistical difficulties regarding the visit to the Holy Land, exacerbated by the post-pandemic new-normal, necessitated a change. However, to have had visited the center of the Catholic Church and the Holy Father, and to walk the ways of the persecuted Christians of the first centuries – what a splendid spiritual experience it turned out to be!
Some of the key holy places the Group visited were: the catacombs of Domitila, St. Paul’s Basilica, and the place of Paul’s martyrdom, St. Peter’s Basilica, Holy Mass at the Crypt of St. Peter, St. John Lateran Basilica, Scala Santa, Santa Croce, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fontana, Piazza Navona, Assisi, the place of St. Francis, St. Claire, and Blessed Carlo Acutis, and several places marked by Claretian history. One of the high points of the visit was the participation in the general audience by Pope Francis and listening to his reflection on “discernment,” a theme very central to the Claretian Chapter document, Querida Congregación. The group also visited the Claretian General Curia, the Basilica of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Claret Museum. Rev. Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, Superior General, spent an evening with the group, celebrating the Holy Mass with them and holding a conference wherein he shared the dream of the Congregation and the significance of the Forge Encounter.
The Group was deeply touched by the warm hospitality of Claretian communities, especially the General Curia and the Banchi Vecchi community who prepared the lunch packets for the groups on several days. They are very grateful to Frs. Carlos Sanchez, Vicente Sanz, and Edgar who meticulously organized the visits and fraternally accompanied them. As one of the group members commented, “the pilgrimage was a beautiful and faith-building experience. Through these visits, we could connect ourselves to our Lord, the saints & our founder St. Anthony Mary Claret more intimately. Glory to God, and long live our Congregation.”