When I saw that I could sign up for a tour called “Papal Audience,” I jumped at the chance. Even though there are free tickets to attend Pope Francis’ weekly address to the audience in St. Peter’s Square, I willingly forked over $40 to have the opportunity to get closer to the pontiff. According to the reviews I read, our tour group would be as close as 10-12 feet away.
Thanks to our tour director, Barbara, she booked a taxi for me and two other women who wanted also to see the Pope. In all there were four of us who braved the 52° chill in St. Peter’s Square as we waited for 2-1/2 hours for the Pope to appear. (I, however, was the only one from our group who had booked the special tour, which included an informal lecture on the history of popes since Saint Peter, considered to be the first pope (Pope Francis is the 266th Pope.)
When Pope Francis approached our corner of the square, a loud cheer went up as he rode in the Popemobile. Everyone was standing and cheering as he stopped for several minutes right in front of us, and I offer the following pictures to show you how close he was — probably from 6-8 feet from where I was standing. The family in front of us had three small children, and they were invited to ride in the Popemobile — what lucky children!
I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to be so close to the pope! The lady standing next to me said the question was, do you look at the pope through your camera’s viewfinder, or do you look at him with your eyes? In the end, I not only took pictures, I also looked at him directly, and I can say that he looks exactly like his picture. The Popemobile made two round trips through the Square, to the delight of the massive crowd.
When Pope Francis made his way to the front, he was easily seen on two large video monitors. There followed greetings from the Pope to German, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese and other language groups. The lesson for the day was also read in several languages, followed by a homily by the Pope who asked us to insure that we emphasize family time, especially time around the dinner table, and to not let the computer, or the internet, divide our attention to each other. Afterwards, the Lord’s Prayer was sung in Latin and then it was over!
While I waited for the other women in my group, I visited the souvenir shop and bought a T-shirt with Pope Francis and the Lord’s Prayer in Latin on it. Of course, it was the most expensive of the T-shirts, and the others with just scenes of Rome were about half the cost.
We had a quick lunch then walked to the church of Santa Maria del Popolo where there were many great art pieces by Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini,Caravaggio, Alessandro Algardi, Pinturicchio, Andrea Bregno, Guillaume de Marcillat and Donato Bramante.
Of course, I took a picture of the organ pipes, of the few churches in which I have seen an organ. One of our guides told us that many organs were removed during the period of Vatican II, and were replaced by guitars.
Back to the hotel, then several of us went out to dinner, visiting the nearby large church of Santa Maria Maggiore (Mary the Major) on the way. There are about 400 churches in the city of Rome, and 40 of them have Santa Maria (Saint Mary) in their name. I’m sorry it was already dark when we got here because we got only a glimpse of the spectacular painted walls. I did, though, find a painting with organ pipes in it in one of the side chapel ceilings.
The cafe we went to was right outside the church, making for lovely (but chilly) dinner scenery. After dinner we took a group selfie before going inside to eat dessert. I am so grateful to these women for always including me in their activities and making sure I wasn’t left out. I have made a bunch of new friends!