Following Father Levi’s advice, we were up at the crack of dawn, and cabbed our way over to Vatican City to get in line for the Papal Audience. While it didn’t officially start until 10AM, we arrived shortly after 7, and stood with hundreds of others waiting for the security gates to open so we could go through the metal detectors and try to grab some good seats.
Security started screening people around 7:30, and it was a push and shove mayhem event, with people from all over the world in an epic mosh pit style shove fest to be the first inside. Mom, Dad and I stuck to the outer edge and got in relatively quickly, grabbing seats to the audience left of the stage, about 20 rows back, right next to the barricade separating the crowd from the route the Pope would take in his lap in the Popemobile.
So then we sat for a couple hours, chatting, watching the crowd, trying to identify the people who came in gang colors… I mean, traditional costumes of their homelands. Turns out they were there to sing. Every choir came dressed in full traditional regalia. It was actually kinda cool.
While we waited, I did some research on the Pope. Turns out that before entering Seminary, he was a Chemist and a BOUNCER AT A NIGHTCLUB. Best. Pope. Ever.
Around 9:30, Il Papa made his appearance, doing a lap (more of a figure 8) around the square in the Pope mobile. Of course, everyone pressed towards the edges where we were to get a better look. A few little old Italian ladies pushed in front of mom to get right up next to me. Because they were barely 5 feet tall, I didn’t say anything, but when one of them tried to stand on my chair, I looked right at her and said quite loudly, “NO!” She blinked, and I repeated myself. Then she stopped trying.
I have to say, I really like this Pope guy. After his lap, he spoke (in Italian) at some length about his recent trip to Columbia (where he got the black eye). The focus of his trip was human rights, and the steps Columbia was taking to bring themselves into the modern age, especially in terms of human trafficking. Once that was done, he welcomed people, reading from his prepared list of who was there. As he got to each of the large groups, if they cheered loud enough, he would smile, look up from his notes, and wave. He was very human. It was… awesome. There were then, the translations of his opening remarks into SEVERAL different languages. Then he blessed us, and we (and thousands of other people) went on our way.
OUR way took us to food, and then the Vatican Museums.
Holy crap there are a lot of Vatican Museums.
We spent the next several hours walking EVERYWHERE we could, and we barely scraped the surface.
The day ended with a visit to the Sistine Chapel (no photos please!), and then a cab ride home to pack.
It was truly an awesome day.