The Easter Station pilgrimage takes us to a new church today, the Basilica of St Mary of the Martyrs, usually referred to as the Pantheon in Rome. If ever there was a building which symbolises the triumph of Christianity it is this building - constructed in honour of all the gods of Rome, it has become a church dedicated to Our Lady as Queen of Martyrs. Given to Pope Boniface IV in 609, he converted it into a church and consecrated it. Apart from its attraction as ancient Roman building, the best preserved of all the ancient monuments, it is also the burial place of some important Italian figures - the painter Raphael and two kings of Italy.
On this Easter Friday, the Station pilgrimage brings us to reflect on martyrdom. In the first reading we see Peter and John drawing the ire of the Temple priests and others. It is dawning on the Jewish authorities that the "Jesus of Nazareth thing" is not going to go away - something has started and it is going to grow. The apostles are arrested and so begins the persecution of the Church, one which has lasted down to our day and will continue long after we have gone.
Our Gospel presents us with a comforting sight - the reconciliation of Peter with Our Lord. Forgiven, Peter is told to feed and care for the sheep and lambs - the flock of Christ - the Church. In the midst of all her troubles, Peter has fulfilled this command faithfully and Christ watches over us all. The gathering at Santa Maria dei Martiri reminds us all that suffering for the faith, though hard, is blessed, it strengthens the proclamation of the Gospel.