During a sleep over at Sunderland Minster this week, a friend pointed out that the list of 'Rectors of Bishop Wearmouth' on the tower wall contained a 'Robert de Geneva' later Pope Clement VII! For 4 years in the 14th Century, the Minster was run by someone who went on to become a Pope!
But the Sunderland connections don't end there - when the new Pope Francis revealed his motto this week, it happened to be quote from a Mackem!
The Pope has picked a line from a sermon by Bede, the Sunderland lad who joined the monastery of St Peters at the age of 7 years old:
"miserando atque eligendo"
Here’s the translation used in the Vatican press conference:
“His motto—“miserando atque eligendo” (because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him)—is taken from the Venerable Bede’s homily on the Gospel account of the call of Matthew. It holds special meaning for the Pope because—when he was only 17-years-old, after going to confession on the Feast of St. Matthew in 1953—he perceived God’s mercy in his life and felt the call to the priesthood, following the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola."
But links from Sunderland to the Vatican run deeper than you think - When Saint Benedict Biscop in the 7th Century was tasked with creating a new 'St Peter's' here in England - he chose Sunderland. The Wear reminded him of the Tiber, and the city was surrounded by 7 hills, as was his beloved Rome. That's why St Peter's Monkwearmouth has its name.
Now finally, with Sunderland inspired by Rome, the Bishop of Rome returns the favour by being inspired by a Mackem lad!