“How memorable was the first journey he took in 1858!” – one reads o in the Biographical Memoirs (vol. XVIII, chap. XV page 300) - At that time Italy had still been split up into isolated sections and there was no railway between Genoa and Rome. He needed to get a passport, draw up his will in the presence of a notary and witnesses, board a boat and sail to Civitavecchia. What a torture that seasickness! Jumping out of the stagecoach, he touched the ground of the Holy City with the emotions of the ancient Roman pilgrims. That was the only time that he had toured the city. He descended into the recently explored catacombs of Saint Callistus. He had climbed up to the dome of Saint Peter’s. Count De Maistre, in whose house he had been a guest, had introduced him to as many patrician households as he could, and also into the palaces of cardinals. He had been received twice in audience at the Quirinal Palace by Pius IX and once in the Vatican. During these audiences, the Pope had given him suggestions to lay the sound foundations of the Pious Society. With his own hand the Pope had made annotations on the draft of the Rules, and told him also to write down his dreams. The young cleric Michael Rua, who had then followed the Servant of God everywhere like a shadow, is now sitting beside him as his Vicar.”
This first visit was followed by others during which Don Bosco carried forward the promotion of his work, the recognition of the newly born Salesian Congregation and, at the request of Pope Leo XIII, the building of the church of the Sacred Heart.
The quiet anniversary coincides with the arrival in Rome of the 233 members of the chapter in order to begin the GC26 which will bring the Salesians to the relaunching of the “Da mihi animas cetera tolle”.