24 March 2011

Pope Sighting #2

I'm not sure we're going to get any closer to the pope than this. Every Wednesday at 10:30am, there is a papal audience in St. Peter's Square. Tickets are free and available the day before at the bronze doors. The doors are found at the top of a grand, marble staircase right after the security checkpoint for the basilica. Two spear-wielding Swiss guards in orange and purple striped uniforms designed by Michelangelo stand at their entrance. I had assumed there would be a ticket office near the roped off staircase, but instead, I was directed to go on up and ask one of the Swiss guards for tickets. So, around the short maze of burgundy ropes I went and up the centuries old marble. For some reason, when I'm not sure if someone understands English, I speak like a robot. "Tickets for pope audience? Two?" He simply walked to a desk through the doors and came back with two blue pieces of paper - like the little girl and her mom are holding above. A tour group snapped my picture as I descended. It was all pretty bizarre.
We arrived at around 8:30am to get a good spot, defining "good" as close enough to the front for a good picture and close enough to the back to sneak out if we needed to. There were already quite a few people there and more steadily streamed in. There was a general buzz of excitement and, now and then, a children's choir could be heard over a loudspeaker. You could tell it was live because of the conductor's whispering and occasional page turn. Among the tunes sung was "Falling Slowly" from the movie Once - which was a little weird.
It was a very sunny morning and people came prepared for the campout. Sandwiches emerged from foil and bottles of water from purses. Some people brought books, others ipods, but the smartest accessories were shading devices. Like umbrellas...
...and hats.
Two hours and an entire issue of The New Yorker later, things really started to happen. Two brides and two grooms took their seats on stage, then a group of bishops, nuns and - as someone so sensitively shouted out behind us - "an Indian chief!" A rotund man in a tailed tuxedo, the Swiss guards and the much more intimidating Italian police all took their places as well. The excitement was really building and even as people jostled into position and pushed their way to secure a good view, moods remained light.
Pope Benedict arrived to shouts of "Papa!" in a very slow moving popemobile. It took him across the front of the stage, then down the far left aisle of the crowd, through the middle, up the side, down the center and then up the side again. He passed just a foot away from me three times in all and I can report that he is better looking in person. Nothing but astute commentary here on MerlinandRebecca.com.
The popemobile putted up a ramp onto the stage and he took his seat (in the shade) to begin the audience. Priests from different countries read from the scripture in various languages and the pope gave a lengthy address in Italian. We didn't wind up staying the entire time, taking an opportunity to duck out during an impromptu song from a visiting school group in the crowd. Apparently, the audience lasts around three hours, which would have made a sum of five hours spent in the sun. Our former-USSR-winter-pallor just wouldn't have survived.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for that wonderful description! It's been a year and a half since we were at St. Peter's square participating in the papal audience. You brought back wonderful memories!! Doreen B.