A teacher from Oundle School says he it was unforgettable for the school choir to be in the Vatican as Pope Benedict announced his retirement.
The choir, made up of 44 pupils and five staff, toured Rome earlier this month, singing services at the Vigil Mass in Sancta Maria Maggiore, All Saints Anglican Churchand St Paul’s Within the Walls.
The group also attended a pre-Lenten carnival in the Piazza dei Populi and visited the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, as well as the Forum and the Coliseum.
But director of music Andrew Forbes said being in the Vatican when the Pope announced his decision to step down – the first time in six centuries it had happened – made the experience particularly memorable.
Mr Forbes said: “On Monday, Rome was buzzing with the resignation of the Pope, and there was much speculation as to what would happen on Wednesday morning.
“Wednesday was the day for our visit to the Vatican, which by this stage was teeming with film crews and reporters. The choir were filmed by several broadcasters, and even appeared on a Polish news programme.
“We were very fortunate to be at the Papal audience on such an historic occasion, with the Pope explaining the reasons for his resignation. It was an unusual event, being neither sacred not reverent, but the choir were able to sing twice, competing with other music groups from around the world in the congregation of 5,000.”
He added: “The whole tour was unforgettable for many reasons. Musically, the choir were on top form, particularly on Sunday and Monday evening. Culturally, pupils were able to tour the most important sites in Rome with excellent guides.
“Historically, this was one of the most significant moments for the Papacy in six hundredyears. It was a fantastic and fulfilling time for all involved.”
Benedict XVI will officially step down tomorrow (Thursday, February 28), with cardinals then gathering to choose his successor.