Australia House – Domus Australia

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Renovations are underway at Australia House in Rome, a pilgrim centre for Australians travelling to the Eternal City which will offer reasonably-priced accommodation. Called Domus Australia in Italy, the building was an initiative of Sydney Archdiocese and acquired by the Catholic Church of Australia.� A key aim in establishing the centre is to help tourists become pilgrims. Between 80 and 90 pilgrims will be accommodated and there will be a daily Mass in English in its chapel along with up-to-date information on papal events and the Church in general.

Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell is visiting the renovation work at present and is keen for the complex to have � a real Australian flavour�. �Apart from comfortable rooms, there will be common areas where visitors can share their experiences and catch up with news from home,� Cardinal Pell said.

�It will be a real home away from home for travelling Australians�.

The centre will also provide that opportunity to strengthen the link between the Catholic Church in Australia and Catholic Rome. However Australia House will be open to all but is expected to be especially attractive and welcoming for Australian Catholic visitors to Rome. The late 19th century complex, in walking distance of the Vatican, is expected to be opened late next year. While the extensive renovations are underway on the building in Rome, work has also begun here in Sydney to contribute to that Australian flavour.

Award-winning and Dural-based artist Paul Newton has been commissioned to create 35 paintings for the chapel. Paul created the acclaimed Our Lady of the Southern Cross for World Youth Day in Sydney and which hangs in St Mary�s Cathedral. The 47-year old artist will paint portraits of the outstanding pioneers of the Church in Australia including Caroline Chisholm, Father Therry, Dame Mary Kate Barlow, Blessed Mary MacKillop and founder of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Archbishop Polding.� There will also be portraits of John Paul 11 and Mother Theresa.� Paul is working on some preliminary designs for the paintings however all the portraits are expected to take two years to complete.

�How each painting interacts is important and while you want each one to stand on its own, it needs to also work harmoniously with the rest as a group,� Paul said. �I feel very honoured that Cardinal Pell and the other archbishops have such confidence in me,� he said and the more research he does on the Australian Catholic experience, the more fascinated he becomes. �It resonates with me because it is my own history both as a Sydney-sider and as a Catholic,� Paul said