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Scenes from Clerical Life (9) – Milan

May 10, 2009

19364051I thought that my final job in the Diocese in Europe would be as Dean of Gibraltar, but a bit of a crisis arose in Italy, where the Archdeacon of Italy and Malta (who was also Chaplain of All Saints, Milan) went over to Rome and home to Australia at the same time. The Bishop asked me to take over the Archdeaconry, so for the next few years I travelled the length and breadth of Italy, and to the island of Malta, while living in Milan. I had a curate and another priest in Milan, which made it easier for me to visit the other parishes of the Archdeaconry, but I was also very fond of our little church in Milan and loved living in that city.

Milan is the fashion centre of Europe and has therefore a certain elegance to it. It is not a great tourist attraction like Venice or Florence, but was all the better for that. In some ways it was a bit like Philadelphia, which has New York and Washington on either side of it and yet has an attraction all of its own. A lot of very good-looking young English youngsters came to Milan as models, and some of them found a church home at All Saints , so it is probably the prettiest congregation I have had! I lived in a small apartment on the roof of the church, which had a wide flower-filled terrace and a roof deck.

The Archbishop of Milan was Cardinal Martini, and I soon became friends with him and with some of the clergy of the Duomo, the wonderful “wedding-cake” Cathedral in the centre of Milan and only a few minutes walk from All Saints. They were all very pro-Anglican, perhaps because they have a different rite for the Mass in Milan, the Ambrosian Rite, and are careful to call themselves Ambrosian Catholics rather than Roman Catholics, though they are, of course, in full communion with Rome. So they could quite see the point of Anglo-Catholicism, though (like me) they wished we were also in communion with Rome. Archbishop Martini was greatly loved by the Milanese, though some thought he was a bit left-wing and called him affectionately “Martini Rosso” (like the drink). He had a great sense of humour, and enjoyed calling me “Don Gordon”, emphasizing the two “dons”.

My Archdeaconry duties often called me away from Milan to other parts of Italy and once a month or so to London, but I became very fond of Milan and the Milanese and always enjoyed returning home there.

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