A virtual tour of Rome

Father Scott Foley is pictured with friend Father Brandon Theisen in Rome while both were students at the North American College in Rome. Father Foley led a virtual pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican during a Theology on Tap event Aug. 13.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — With a projector screen and a large monitor set up on the grounds of Our Lady of Victory Parish, Father Scott Foley led a virtual pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican. The pilgrimage was part of a Theology on Tap event Aug. 13. Guests could participate outdoors in person or on Facebook Live.

Father Foley, who was ordained in 2019, is parochial vicar at Our Lady of Victory Parish.

He began the evening with an opening prayer. The projector screen had an image of a map of Vatican City, which covers a little more than 100 acres. Father Foley said his parents’ farm is larger than that.


The obelisk, located in the center of St. Peter’s Square, came from Egypt, Father Foley noted. When it arrived by boat, it was much taller. But it was broken when it was taken off the boat.

Father Foley pointed out that saint statues stand atop of the colonnades around the square. “They are at least twice the height of me.”

Atop St. Peter’s Basilica are statues of Christ, his 12 apostles and John the Baptist.

On the map, Father Foley pointed out the spot where St. John Paul II was shot in 1981.

Father Foley talked about the walks and bicycle rides he took around Rome and the Vatican during his time as a student at North American College in Rome. Some of the sites he pointed out during the presentation were:

• Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, which is about three miles from St. Peter’s Basilica. He noted it burned to the ground in the 1800s and was rebuilt with funding from individual donors and religious institutions around the world. The original church was a duplicate of old St. Peter’s Basilica.

• Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, where a relic of St. Mary Magdalene’s foot is housed.

• The bodies of Simon and Jude, which are buried at St. Peter’s Basilica.

• Piazza Navona, where guests can enjoy gelato (Italian ice cream) and a great view of St. Peter’s Square.

• The Pantheon, which Father Foley considers “a cool place to go.” The top of the structure is open. On the feast of Pentecost, red rose petals are dropped down to those in attendance. For this event, guests need to arrive at least three hours in advance, Father Foley pointed out.

• Piazza Vittorio, where Julius Cesar was assassinated. Today it is a sanctuary for cats amongst the ruins.

• St. Mary Major, a major basilica and the largest Marian church in Rome.

• The Colosseum.

• St. John Lateran in the pope’s basilica. “It’s not St. Peter’s as most believe.”

During a question and answer session, one guest asked, “If you have only one day in Rome, what three things do you have to see?” Father Foley said he’d recommend visiting the Vatican, specifically St. Peter’s Basilica; St. Paul Outside the Walls as it is less crowded and “gorgeous;” and the Pantheon.

Another guest asked how long he attended the North American College for seminary. Father Foley said four years. He noted that students are not allowed to visit home during the first year. Despite spending four years in Italy, “my Italian is terrible.” However, he developed a love for gelato, pizza and pasta.

A guest asked how many Catholic churches are in Rome. “More than 900,” Father Foley responded.

Someone asked what it was like to ride a bike on cobblestone roads. Father Foley said they are dangerous when wet and you have to be careful around trolley tracks with the very thin tires of the bicycles.

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