One of the major enticements of studying in Rome, for me, was the idea of being so close to Vatican City, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church: Pope Benedict XVI. In September, I started looking into how to attend a Papal Mass or a Papal Audience. The process is not nearly as involved as it may originally seem, and I would recommend that everyone (Catholic or not!) visiting Rome try to make a Papal event.
The schedule of Papal ceremonies is posted online at http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/index_en.html and you decide which event you would like to attend. I wrote an email to the Visitor’s Office requesting tickets for Mass on October 7, 2012 and was told to pick them up the preceding Friday at the Bishops’ Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican. The Visitor’s Office emails directions to get you to Via dell’Umiltá, 30 from the Trevi Fountain. Friday morning turned into a tourist adventure for me: I saw the Trevi Fountain, got lost a couple of times, did some window shopping, but eventually did make it to the Visitor’s Office to pick up my tickets.
The Pontifical North American College was one of the most quiet, peaceful places I have been in Rome. There was a beautiful garden in the center of the offices and a chapel on site. The nun who let me in, Sister Anna Marie, was young and extraordinarily helpful and kind. She studied abroad in Rome ten years ago and lived in the same residence that Temple students do now. Sister Anna Marie was able to give me a lot of great restaurant and gelato suggestions in the neighborhood. It is always refreshing to talk to someone who completed a study abroad program in Rome; Sister Anna Marie was able to relate to all my struggles (the language barrier, always getting lost) and share in my many excitements, especially that of seeing the Pope in person on Sunday.
We chose to go to a Papal Mass this past Sunday because we all knew we would need divine intervention to do well on our midterms. Mass was at 9:30, and we left at 8:30 to get to Saint Peter’s Square by 8:45 in order to go through security and find good seats. The line to get into Saint Peter’s Square was not nearly as long as we had anticipated, and going through security (just like at the airport) and finding decent seats was a breeze. The Mass itself was longer than an American Mass, partly because it was for the opening of the Synod of Bishops and partly because so many different languages were used throughout the service. I was amazed at Pope Benedict’s linguistic skills: he was able to make Spanish, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, English, etc. all sound good. At one point during Mass, I looked around and was completely awestruck by the sheer amount of people from all over the world who came to see this one man celebrate a Catholic Mass.
After Mass, the Pope drove around Saint Peter’s Square, blessing and waving at the people crammed in Saint Peter’s Square to see him. Pope Benedict XVI is like a rock star: people were trying to get as close to him as possible and standing on chairs to snap pictures. We actually got within a couple feet of him, but he was gone as quick as he came.
Attending a Papal ceremony while in Italy is must. Tickets are free, easy to obtain, and seeing the Pope is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was definitely worth waking up early on a Sunday morning anyway.
all photo credits to Temple University junior, Jordan Hastoglis