NATIONAL SHRINE CHOIR, IN ROME, CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY

NATIONAL SHRINE CHOIR, IN ROME, CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY

The choir of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. this year marks its 50th anniversary and, as part of those celebrations, the choir has scheduled several concerts in Rome.

The choir arrived Rome October 3, dedicating their first full day in the city to rehearsals and some sightseeing. Family members and shrine benefactors are accompanying the choir on their five-day stay in the Eternal City.

A special Mass for Pope Francis and his intentions was celebrated yesterday morning in a chapel of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Pope’s cathedral as bishop of Rome, with the choir providing the music. I have known choir director Peter Latona, as well as Msgr. Walter Rossi, director of the shrine and Callista Gingrich, a member of the choir, for years and was invited to the Mass and to speak to the choir afterwards about my work and my life here in Rome.

Last evening was the choir’s first public concert in Rome. They sang at the extraordinarily beautiful church of San Antonio dei Portoghesi (St. Anthony of the Portuguese) in the center of Rome. This is the Portuguese national church in Rome and is truly a jewel.

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The Portuguese ambassador to the Holy See was present, and the rector of the church, Msgr. Agostinho Borges, briefly addressed the crowd, reminding us all that the beloved saint we call St. Anthony of Padua was actually born in Portugal. He also reminded us that San Antonio dei Portoghesi offers concerts every Sunday evening at 6:30.

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The choir sings again this evening at the Italian embassy to the Holy See and I’ll try to record some music from that concert. For now I just offer a few photos from last night’s event.

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After the concert I met a young couple from Lisbon, Luis and Maria Levezinho, who are huge fans of EWTN. We spoke at length after the program and they specifically mentioned how much they enjoy Joan’s Rome and At Home with Jim and Joy! I now have a standing invitation to return to Portugal, especially next year for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima!

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