Of Railways

Another lighter story.  I can hear the comparison’s with the Hogwart’s Express now.

From CNA:

Vatican City, May 12, 2011 / 10:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- 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. [Some readers, less inclined to the Potter Analogy will surely consider that it is portentous that this starts one week after the release of Universae EcclesiaeThink about it.]

“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.

It total, five passenger carriages will be pulled by 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.

And their destination? The historic city of Orvieto in Umbria, about 60 miles to the north of Rome.  [The former bishop of the Diocese of Orvieto-Todi was one of the three bishops removed this year (so far) from governance.  Portentous.]

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 XXII 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 express@caritas.va


How do you get to the track?  For the Hogwarts Express you have to run at a spot in the wall at Paddington… No!  King’s Cross. The bear… thing… Pope Benedict’s coat-of-arms… also portentous.   But since people have been battering themselves against the walls of the Vatican bureaucracy for years, that seems an unlikely method.

Once you get to Orvieto, is there a free transfer for the funicular railway to get you to the top of the town?

Is there a club or dining car?

Is there any connection between the moving of the offices of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph – and the inevitable shift of the Vortex – and the opening of the Vatican’s railway doors?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Henry Edwards says:

    John Paul II used the Vatican Railway in order to reach Santa Maria of the Angels (Assisi) on a “special pilgrimage” to meet with representatives of various religions in a Day of Prayer for World Peace, on 24th January, 2002.


  2. Ezra says:

    This must be the service my Anglican friends have been talking about. Apparently the inbound train is very good. Fast, gracious service, and the Holy Father even had extra luggage racks fitted for those travelling with patrimony.

  3. inara says:

    the train is leaving the station indeed…

  4. Centristian says:

    The train is leaving the station…powered by a steam locomotive (the extraordinary form of locomotive) as opposed to a diesel locomotive (the ordinary form of locomotive). The symbolism is obvious.

    I believe it was Pope Gregory XVI who denounced the railway as the “Hellway”, refusing to allow one to be built in the Papal States. Pope Benedict XVI, on the other hand, says “all aboard” (not just with respect to trains, of course). XVI v. XVI. How times change.

    About an hour’s drive from where I live, a charming little tourist railway called the Arcade & Attica Railroad still employs steam engines to pull its warm weather excursion trains through the lush countryside. While riding on this antique train last Summer, I thought of Gregory XVI’s assessment of railways and I had to laugh that anyone should ascribe evil to such a delightful way to travel (at the breakneck pace of 15 MPH, incidentally). I couldn’t imagine anything so innocent. Of course, something that seems so quaint to someone born in the 20th c. must have seemed, on the contrary, like a great iron smoke-belching dragon to a man who had grown up wearing kee-breeches and a tricorn.

    “…Pope Benedict’s coat-of-arms… also portentous.”

    Why? Has he revised the revision, replacing the tiara that replaced the miter with a conductor’s hat?

    The Caritas Express is a holy roller…ride on the Caritas Express…

  5. Daniel Latinus says:

    Thanks, Henry Edwards for the link to the Vatican Railway. I have been unable to find the website, or the pictures (especially of the steam locomotive) for years.

  6. Centristian says:

    Knock me over with a feather: I’ve just read that the steam railroad I referenced was founded in…1917!

    It’s all connected, now.

  7. Alice says:

    Pope John XXII used the Italian presidential train, in 1962? Pretty good for a 718 year old Frenchman!

    Centristian, be it known that we are planning to take our children to see the extraordinary form of the railroad engine some time this summer. I’m pretty sure that the Reverend Awdry would agree with the characterization of the steam engine as the Extraordinary Form and the diesel as the Ordinary Form. ;)

  8. David Homoney says:

    I have just noticed, maybe because of this Potter talk, that Father’s picture at the top looks like he is shooting a magic missle or fireball. Hmmmmmm????? :)

  9. EWTN Rocks says:

    Even if I had to run at a spot in the wall or click my heels three times (oh, guess that was another movie), I would love to have a seat on a steam train through the Italian countryside – now that would be something…

  10. RichardT says:

    I have just been looking at pictures of the Vatican station; it’s an ugly building:

    The porch on the outside is fairly impressive, but not exactly elegant:

    It also seems to be huge, particularly since it only has one platform. To keep with the Harry Potter theme, I’d say it’s about the size of the main building of King’s Cross.

  11. Signore, scusi!
    Is this the Vatican Hill choo-choo?

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