It’s a little known Vatican fact but the Pope has his own train station. Thing is, it’s been dormant for years – until now. May 21 will see a 1930s steam train leave the Vatican City Station for a trip to the Italian countryside. And it’s all to raise money for the Holy See’s official charity, Caritas.
“It’s a rare opportunity and certainly a very joyful way to come together ahead of our General Assembly and reflect on who we are and where we are going,” Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo, head of the Caritas International delegation to Geneva, told Vatican Radio May 11.
The event coincides with Caritas’s 19th International Assembly being held in Rome as well as their 60th anniversary.
In total, five passenger carriages will be pulled by a steam engine. The train is being nicknamed the “Caritas Express” for the day, and each engine will be dedicated to a particular patron saint of the poor and vulnerable. Seats are still available to the general public.
The day will also see the huge iron gates that mark the border between Italy and the Vatican opened for the first time in years.
The train will head to the historic city of Orvieto in Umbria, about 60 miles to the north of Rome.
The Vatican City State Station was built under the Lateran Treaty of 1929 which normalized relationships between the Holy See and the Italian State. When he saw it under construction, Pope Pius XI described it as “the most beautiful station in the world.”
Pope Pius XI never traveled on the line himself and his planned papal train was never built. It was Pope John XXIII who became the first pontiff to travel on line, using the Italian presidential train, in 1962. He made the trip between the Vatican City Station and Assisi. Pope John Paul II also traveled on the line in 1979 and 2002.
In the past, emergency relief supplies have also been loaded at the “Pope’s Platform” onto special Caritas trains for delivery to flood victims in northern Italy and elsewhere.
The Caritas Express will pull out of the Vatican State Railway Station at 10 a.m. on May 21. It will return to Termini Station in Rome at 7:30 p.m.
Anyone interested in making a donation and wishing to request a seat on the train should email [email protected].