Wednesday, April 8, 2009
AUDIENCE WITH THE POPE
Wednesday, April 8, 2009 Audience with the Pope
Today we were scheduled to have an audience with the Pope; just the two of us and several thousand other people in St. Peter’s Piazza at the weekly Wednesday Audience.
We crept out of the Hostel before six thirty am, boarded the #40 Bus and arrived at St. Peter’s Square just after seven am. A cool foggy morning, we found ourselves third in line at the metal railing that stretched across the opening between the Bernini Columns preventing anyone from entering prior to the opening of the fence at eight fifteen. Standing with a Spanish family from Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain who spoke excellent English and a French lady who also spoke English, we shared travel stories and experiences while we waited for the return of the Spanish matriarch who was having coffee with the wife. When she arrived we met a diminutive but delightful eighty five year young woman, dressed to the nines for her audience with the pope.
When the gates opened we all rushed forward from four entrances into St. Peter’s Square to find the best seat we could obtain with our tickets we’d received yesterday at the American Bishops Office for United States Citizens. We were not required to go through the metal detectors; only passed a number of guards who had the right to ask you about the contents of bags but rarely stopped anyone as we waved our tickets while nearly running down towards the very front. We managed to snag seats in the very front row near the right center aisle; not up next to the Pope’s podium but at the very base of the steps. As Mary said later, “there is nothing between me and the Pope except this tiny little fence” and sometimes the Swiss Guard would step into her view but he was usually just a few feet to the right. Needless to say, she was delighted and I must admit it was one of the best seats that I’ve ever had in my many “audiences” with the Pope.
I decided not to use my telephoto lens and just snap as many photos as possible when the Pope drove right pass us in his popemobile; yes, those are my photo in the slideshow!
The service lasted from ten thirty to noon.
The foggy morning was blazing sunshine by ten am and we started shedding some of the layers of clothing. We were so glad that we’d brought our “flying nun hats” as we were able to keep them on and still not block anyone’s view; we did remove them when the Pope drove past. We had a family from Texas on the right side of us, two German ladies, sisters I think; on the left and right behind us were the Spanish family that we’d spent the first hour with outside the fence. Yes, they were a bit slower than we were in getting seats but the eighty five year old had to have moved pretty fast to get the seats they were in. When the Pope came past, Mary moved over and brought her up to the railing with us as she would never have seen him from behind us as she was so tiny!
We expected the Pope to mention the earthquake on Monday; we didn’t hear anything we could understand about it but later on the Internet we read that he did mention it, probably in Italian, and said that he would be visiting the area as soon as possible. They also said that it would probably be in two weeks.
After the closing blessings that were extended to our families back home by the Pope we headed back towards the bus stops, finally finding a bus after we crossed the bridge; and arriving back at our hostel before one pm. We worked on our computers and waiting for my daughter, Mary Frances, to arrive. She flew in from San Francisco this morning.
Mary arrived, I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, and after she settled into the Hostel we spent the afternoon walking in Rome to keep her awake until nine pm so that she could readjust her “clock” to the nine hours difference. My sister Mary stayed at the Hostel during the afternoon to rest and try to combat her cold that was developing into a full fledged head cold.
We rode the bus using our day passes that Mary and I’d purchased early this morning to the Vatican where daughter Mary (yes it’s going to be a confusing few days with two Marys) had to pick up a special ticket that was waiting for her and then we walked for the next three hours after stopping to purchase slices of pizza that we ate while walking. Our first stop after leaving the Vatican was the Piazza del Popolo to visit Santa Maria del Popolo Church to see Raphael’s Chigi Chapel; unfortunately it is being restored right now and was covered but we were able to view the magnificent Caravaggio paintings.
Then off to the Spanish Steps where we purchased gelato cones and then continued to the Tervi Fountain before heading over to the Pantheon. We stopped for a few minutes to enjoy an unusual street performer, a woman playing her cello accompanied by taped music; a nice change from the usual guitars that we generally hear on the streets and in the metro systems. After emerging from the small streets we found a very crowded rush hour bus and stood, crammed in like sardines packed in a tin, all the way back to Termini Station and a short walk to the Hostel.
Now I’ve been to the “major tourist” sites three times on this trip! Me thinks it’s time for something new tomorrow. But what a great time I had with my youngest daughter traipsing about the streets of Rome!