The Journey of the Crosier: leaving Rome 

Augustine and his fellow-missionaries would have walked along the via Flaminia (the Anglican Centre’s building stands alongside this ancient road – now called the Corso) and out of the Flaminian Gate (which is very near All Saints’, the Church of England’s church in Rome). We, however, are taking the less-laborious route to England via one of Rome’s airports. Our insurers also insist that the crosier-head, wrapped-up safely in its secure box, has a seat in business class to itself. I wonder if a relic is allowed complimentary champagne too.
Steve with relic 2It’s worth, at this point, saying a very big thank-you to the British Embassy at the Holy See, especially Nigel Baker, the British Ambassador and Steve Townsend, the deputy head of mission, whose help (both at the Italian end and the British end) was invaluable. Exporting an antique ivory object is a mission of great complexity – not least because of the great concern relating to ivory these days – but Steve has an unflappable ability to make things happen. Similarly the enormous cost of insuring this loan would not have been possible without the UK Government Indemnity Scheme. Here he is today, as we were sent on our way with prayers, blessings, and photographs. 

Helpful as the British Embassy has been, I cannot deny the feeling the hand of an even higher power at work these last weeks. Italian bureaucracy is infamous for its Byzantine nature and complex procedures. Somehow Fr Robert McCulloch and I managed to negotiate almost all of the essential elements, collecting permessi, licenze, signatures, and official stamps (they love official stamps in Italy) from everyone necessary in the five days before the Christmas holidays began and the five days since they ended. Every single person we dealt with was not just helpful but incredibly friendly. Italy was at its very best that week – as was St Gregory.

Marcus Walker, 15/01/2016