.- Australians traveling to Rome now have a place that they can call home--Domus Australia – or Australia House. Cardinal George Pell of Sydney described the newly renovated pilgrim center as “a house, a community of religious inspiration.”
“The thinking was to create in a very old tradition of pilgrim centers in Rome,” the rector of the Domus Australia, Father Anthony Denton, told CNA.
“That means that Australians can come here and have some sort of orientation when they visit Rome rather than just get stuck on the number 64 bus, getting robbed. They can actually come here and get information and have a nice place to stay.”
The center is situated only five minutes walk from the city’s main Termini train station. It’s a former Marist Brother’s house of studies built in the 19th century. Three years ago, though, it was acquired by the Catholic Church in Australia. It’s since been heavily renovated and restored.
“It’s a house, a community of religious inspiration. We won't be satisfied if it’s a religious building but pretty empty and secular,” Cardinal George Pell of Sydney told CNA. He was on a visit to Rome to mark the completion of renovations at the Domus with a thanksgiving Mass.
“The ambition is to encourage tourists to become pilgrims and to deepen their faith, to deepen their goodness. There will be Mass every day, regular opportunities for confession.”
Such an attitude is reflected in the restoration of the chapel. The extensive renovations have involved the construction of a new sanctuary, altar and sacristy. Meanwhile, much of the art and marble work has been restored to its former glory, with the flooring being completely replaced.
The restored chapel also features 32 paintings by the award winning Sydney artist, Paul Newton, many of which adorn the seven side altars, which were also restored.
Much of the artwork tells the history of the Church in Australia. One portrait is of the founder of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Archbishop Bede Polding, while another depicts the country’s first saint, Saint Mary MacKillop. All of this bring Australia to the heart of Rome, says Cardinal Pell.
“The second purpose is to strengthen the links between the city of Rome - which is the home of the Pope, home of the Successor of Peter - and Australia, which is nearly as far away as you can be,” Cardinal Pell explained.
For those who wish to stay at the Domus Australia, there are 33 rooms. Bookings are already being made for July onwards.