VATICAN CITY -- When they walked into St. Peter's Basilica Tuesday morning, the dozens of pilgrims traveling with a Diocese of Pittsburgh delegation trained their eyes -- and cameras -- up and around to the marble, bronze, gold leaf and other adornments of the most prominent church in Christendom.
But soon they filtered to a side chapel dedicated to St. Joseph for a Mass led by Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik and accompanied by sparse a capella music.
And the group -- continuing a weeklong pilgrimage that was anchored around Sunday's canonization by Pope Francis of the late popes John XXIII and John Paul II -- was joined by several other priests, groups from elsewhere in the United States, Canada and Poland.
Bishop Zubik leads Mass for pilgrims in St. Peter's
A group from Pittsburgh continues a weeklong pilgrimage -- around the canonization of the late popes John XXIII and John Paul II -- at a mass at St. Peter's Basilica given by Bishop David Zubik. (Peter Smith video; edited by Melissa Tkach; 4/29/2014)
Still more pilgrims joined the service when they saw it get underway. Those who couldn't fit in the hundreds of available chairs stood along the sides of the chapel, many kneeling on the marble floor.
St. Peter's, built on what traditionally has been believed to be the burial spot of the Apostle Peter, is the focal point of many papal and other Vatican activities and is both a spiritual and architectural landmark, with designs by Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists. Being able to worship in a church they've heard about from a distance was a milestone event for many pilgrims.
Even as hundreds of other pilgrims and tourists wandered throughout the vast basilica, their murmuring voices echoing off the marble, Bishop Zubik and other speakers were able to be heard through a microphone.
"This is a dream in my life," said Rosemary Fuga of North Huntingdon, who was traveling with her granddaughter, Emily Rosche. "I never thought I would have this experience. I am almost 85 years old. I'm just overwhelmed today. This has been the most rewarding thing of my life."
Kevin Maurer, director of music ministries at St. John Capistran Church in Upper St. Clair, who led the singing during the service, added: "It's such an amazing experience to sing in such a beautiful edifice as this."
In a brief homily, Bishop Zubik connected the Mass not only to the newly sainted popes but to one of the patron saints of Italy, Catherine of Siena, whose feast day is today.
Bishop Zubik said it was a "great opportunity ... to be able to do the most important thing we can or will do today."
In addition to the services Sunday and Tuesday, the group has been visiting various pilgrimage and tourist sites around Rome and plans to attend a papal audience today before returning home Thursday.
Peter Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1416 or on Twitter @PG_PeterSmith. First Published April 29, 2014 10:19 AM