Sunday, April 7, 1996 Rome, Italy
Barbara is still sick but seems to be on the mend. She called John this morning and he said he liked her low voice and asked if she could keep it for him. She told us some cute stories about their grandson Connor and his trip with John to check on the fishing spots. Jim definitely has a cold, he was up most of the night; but is determined to go with me to the Vatican Mass at St. Peter’s celebrated by the Pope. We ate a light breakfast, knowing it will be a long time between bathrooms. Had a tray sent up to Barbara. Off in the taxi, we arrived at St. Peter’s Plaza at 8 am.
Just as we arrived they opened the barriers and everyone including us took off for the area as close to the church as we were allowed to go. They made us open our bags and then we ran. We were able to secure a spot directly in front of the altar with only two people in front of us. That sounds great but we were in the standing area that starts at the obelisk in the center of the circle....so there were hundreds of people in front of us who had chairs to sit in. There was a very wide area blocked off between our section and the reserved seating. Eventually the soldiers marched in at 10 am and were put into this area. But this still didn’t block our unbelievable view of everything. (On future trips we arranged for tickets for seats...lesson learned!)
I had binoculars with me and shared with everyone around. We were still quite a distance from the altar. We had five American girls who were on a two week tour, they’d just arrived from Greece at 6 am this morning by train; three American boys who are studying for a year just south of Florence (near Siena). They’re in one of the small towns on a hill in a Monastery. They go home in May, but were very interesting to talk to. An older American couple were also in front of us. Had a German, lots of Polish, a few Japanese and several Italians in our group. It was a fairly congenial group until communion time. We were able to receive communion, I broke my host in half and shared with Jim as I was closer to the barrier. The priest came to the barrier to distribute communion but didn't go any further. Suddenly, the people began to surge forward to get communion which was fine, but then some wouldn’t return as they wanted to stay in our area as you could see so much better. It was full body press time and I could have probably lifted my feet and not fallen…something like sardines in a can! But we held our ground and survived.
Jim was getting sicker all during the mass. Fortunately, we’d brought some water with us which helped him make it through. We arrived at 8 am, the music started at 10 am, the Mass began at 10:30 am and the final blessings from the balcony was over at 1 pm. A very long morning. We managed to get over to the side area and some shade. It was a very bright sunshiny day and got really hot in the Plaza. We managed to get some chairs from the ticketed area and sat down for about half an hour until they opened St. Peter’s. It is the largest church in the world. About the length of two football fields. The Pieta was beautiful. But Jim was really feeling the effects of the morning so we grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel. There were a lot of private cars trying to be cabs and they wanted twice the normal rate. We managed to get a real taxi and a semi decent rate. Barbara had watched everything at St. Peter’s on TV. They televised everything from 10:30 through the final blessings from the balcony.
Jim went to bed and I went for a walk for about an hour. Wouldn’t you know it….Barbara and Jim both in bed sick and we’re sitting out in the suburbs with no where to walk. But it’s good that they’re getting some rest. Barbara got dressed and went to dinner with me in the hotel. We had spaghetti and beer. Apparently when I purchased the water on Saturday I misread the label and picked up a very sweet lemony water instead of plain “natural” as she thought. Jim had noodle soup from the sweet water…said it had a very strange taste. I was on the computer all night while watching an American movie dubbed in Italian. When I turned on the computer today, it knew about the clocks changing to an hour ahead (daylight savings time) and had already changed the computer clock. Really surprised me to say the least.