As a lapsed catholic, the significance of Rome and Vatican City is not lost on me. After all, it is the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church. But oddly, it is Cynthia who seems to have the most interest in seeing the Pope when travelling to Italy. And she is not even remotely Catholic.
The last time we were there we attended the Papal Blessing on a Sunday. The Sunday blessing features The Pope appearing in a window of the Apostolic Palace and speaking to the crowds that gather in St. Peter’s Square. Thousands gather to receive his blessing, or simply gawk.
This visit we were not going to be in Rome in time to attend the Sunday blessing, but we were going to be there on a Wednesday. And, as it happens, Wednesday is the day the Pope conducts his Papal Audience where he actually comes down to conduct a service.
Depending on variables I am not certain about, the audience can either be right in St. Peter’s Square in front of the basilica or they hold the event indoors at the Paul VI Audience Hall.
Cynthia expressed a strong interest in attending and I thought it would be a good opportunity to grab some interesting photos.
Prior to our departure I went online and requested tickets for seats at the event. To do this you simply go to the Web site of The Church of Santa Susanna and fill out a simple form. A week or so prior to your selected date you will be notified if you have been granted tickets.
About two weeks before our departure I received an email confirming our tickets for May 2 at the Paul VI Audience Hall.
There were two disappointments in this email. The first was that the audience would be at the Paul VI Audience Hall so no dramatic outdoor shots. The second was the date. We would not be in Rome on May 2. We would be there on May 9.
Unfortunately I did not realize there was a discrepancy in the date until AFTER I emailed Cynthia with the good, but inaccurate news.
I went back to the Web site and resubmitted my request. We received another confirmation right before we left for Italy. This time with the correct date and confirmation that this audience would, indeed, be in front of the basilica. w00t!
The email confirmation instructed us to go to Santa Susanna during some set times to pick up our tickets. As it turned out, Santa Susanna was only a few blocks from our hotel so finding it and getting there was a total breeze.
When we went to pick up our tickets the priest who met with us asked me what parish I attended. I figured I would be asked something like this and happily told him I was a member of Mt. Carmel. Which is technically true. At least when I was younger. I have attended mass in over 3 decades. As it turns out, the priest knew Mt. Carmel and used to live in Houston. I was quickly put in to a position where I had to admit I was a very, very lapsed Catholic. He smiled and said perhaps our visit would change that.
We got our tickets and made the suggested donation and skedaddled out of there before I was asked anymore questions.
On the day of the audience we got up early and had breakfast and then caught a cab to St. Peter’s Square. The audience was scheduled for 10:30 am and it was suggested we get there early if we wanted good seats. We got there around 8:00 and were able to get about 5th or 6th row. Not too shabby.
The weather was sunny and the skies were blue. And as the time approached for the Pope to appear the crowds in St. Peter’s grew and grew. It was definitely a photo opportunity deluxe.
The wait time went quickly enough and then the big moment arrived. The Pope entered the square
I could see his head and shoulders gliding effortlessly above the crowd. At one point I suggested he was coming in on a Segway to the guilty laughter of those around us. But no, he was not on a Segway, he was on the Mercedes “Pope-Mobile”
I was happy to have brought the 70-200mm lens. Even though we were in a good seat, it was still nice to have the reach
After riding around the square and greeting everyone he eventually settled in to his seat at the top of his podium and addressed the crowd.
It was quite a spectacle. I don’t think I will be going back to mass anytime soon, but it was kind of special and I am glad to have witnessed something like this in person.