After about 26 hours in transit Bus 16 landed at their first stop accommodation, Hotel Mondial on the Venice mainland.
The group had a much needed shower and short rest, then took a boat to Venice’s islands. On the way they dodged the many gondolas racing to celebrate the annual Feast of the Redemption, or Festa Del Redentore, and the Venetian water police protecting those in the race from incoming boat traffic. The festivities begin with the opening of a 330 metre-long bride linking Zattere to the Church of Redentore on the island of Giudecca, a tradition which started in 1576.
After going under the bridge we alighted from the boat to visit San Moise Church, one of more than 200 around the Venetian waterways teeming with old world character and tourists. Bus groups 15, 16, and 17 attended their first Mass of the pilgrimage there, led by Fr Simon Kitimbo and concelebrated by the other chaplains who are with Venice pilgrimage groups to help guide them on their faith journey.
There has been a church on the site at San Moise since the 8th century. The current facade was built in 1628 and later added to. At the alter of the quiet church of aged marble and stone is a large a sculptural scene showing Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments.
The Mass was a reminder of the attitude of faithfulness, openness and mercy with which the students move forward, closer to Poland, where they will represent Australia their church, parishes, schools, peers and families at many more faith-filled events. (Someone I know jokingly refers to World Youth Day as the ‘Church Olympics’, for the many nations that attend and the atmosphere that the presence of millions of faithful and up-beat participants generates).
After Mass the group enjoyed a three course meal of Eggplant lasagne, chicken Parmigana with roasted zucchini, olives and capsicum, and Italian dessert staple tiramisu. They also sang Happy Birthday to Bus 16’s Joseph Germanos.
On the way back to the boat, students stopped for an impromptu game of handball in St Mark’s square with their teachers and Fr Ben Johnson. The group tour St Mark’s Basilica and square tomorrow.