Near La Sapienza in Rome – the modern campus of an old university – there is a church dedicated to an English philosopher, statesman and martyr: San Tommaso Moro.

Don Andrea Celli is the priest of the parish, and La Sapienza’s proximity has encouraged him to adopt university students from across the Eternal City, as part of a school of civic and political formation enlightened by Church teaching.

Fifty-two of these students came to London for a four-day visit centred on the life and example of one of England’s most famous martyr saints. Almost by accident, I was given the task of welcoming them to the Palace of Westminster and talking to them about British politics.


As you would imagine, our visitors were well-informed and politically aware, but thirsty to learn more. The ins and outs of the British constitution were of particular interest, and I did my best to explain (among other things) the nature of the House of Lords and its role as a mere revising chamber rather than a co-equal of the lower house, as Italy’s senate is intended to be.

The hot item though was Brexit – something difficult to grasp at the best of times. I made the point that Britons were always sold the European Union as a mere trading arrangement that would, as it has, bring convenient advantages for industry and consumer alike.

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