Learning about the Reformation

02 November 2006

THIS TIME it was the turn of the Italians from Nettuno to pay a return visit to Ipswich and the original home of their wooden statue of Our Lady of Grace in St Mary-at-the-Elms. Tradition has it that, at the Reformation, the statue in Ipswich was rescued from burning by sailors, and eventually found a home in Nettuno, a seaside town south of Rome. Groups from St Mary's (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich diocese), where there is now a carved replica of the statue, have twice been to Nettuno, and this time welcomed 22 Italians, 20 of whom had never been abroad before. They visited the new shrine in St Mary's (pictured) and experienced an English eucharist, and Fr Carlo Fioravanti, who accompanied them, celebrated what was probably the first Roman Catholic mass in the church since the Reformation.

The Revd Haley Dossor, Priest-in-Charge of St Mary's, told me that much time had to be given to explaining the Reformation to the Italians, as it had scarcely affected them and they knew almost nothing about it. They were also amazed to know that there are something like 100 varied places of worship in Ipswich, in contrast with only two churches in their own much larger town. As part of their education, the Italians visited Lambeth Palace to learn more about pre- and post-Reformation history, and also visited Westminster Cathedral.


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