On Wednesday, my friend Julianna provided tickets for eleven of us to attend an “Audience with the Pope”. He does these audiences every Wednesday. The tickets can be gotten through any parish. From the sound of it, it sounded like maybe 300 people would be in a room, and the Pope would speak at a podium about a topic (this week’s was about the upcoming Peace conference in Assisi). It turned out to be very different.
Firstly, it seemed like there were 20,000 people there. Everyone was in St. Peter’s Square, waiting in lines (which in Italy are not lines, they are masses of people pushing each other in a large clump). Because of the light rain, the Pope was not going to speak outside where he normally does, he was going to speak inside an auditorium. Unfortunately, the auditorium doesn’t fit as many people are the usual outdoor seating. After a few minutes of waiting in the mass, the auditorium was full and we didn’t make it inside. The Pope was going to speak a little bit in the Basilica so that the people who didn’t get inside the auditorium could see him there even for just a moment. We joined the masses in the “line” to get inside the basilica, which must first go through the security line of metal detectors and X-ray machines. This bottleneck really slowed things down. I managed to get to the Basilica with enough time to see the Pope for a minute from across the Basilica. He then left to go to the auditorium.
I was amazed at the number of people there from all over the world. All sorts of people of all ages. The country with the most people there by far was Germany. Pope Benedict is very popular with the Germans. When we were waiting, announcers on the loudspeakers listed the countries where pilgrims were coming from in the native language, and then listed the parishes or organizations that were attending the Audience. The list of pilgrims from Germany was the largest by far.
Large television screens displayed live streaming footage from inside the auditorium to the people outside in the Square. I liked the music best of all.
Afterwards, my friends Abe and Allison and me made “Post-Pope-Pancakes”. They had chocolate shavings in them, and way more butter and sugar than your average pancake. We also made a cinnamon syrup to go with them, and listened to Disco music as we ate them. It was excellent.
Living at the residence, Temple University students are a stone’s throw away from the Vatican. Regardless of your personal beliefs, I highly suggest going to the Vatican on a Wednesday morning to see the crowds gathered for the Audience, and to maybe get to see the Audience from outside in the Square. You don’t need a ticket to be in the Square, and with some good weather it’s possible you could see the event live right before you. I had to miss class to attend the event, but my professor said she was totally fine with me missing class for one day to be able to go to the Audience. After fall break, I feel more compelled to see as many unique things that I can only see here before I have to go back home.