Present for Pope Benedict XVI’s final Wednesday audience in Rome, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Community Director Sister Louise Hembrecht sent communications on this significant historical ecclesial event. Read her words.
It is near the end of the day here in Rome. It was a fantastic day. I went with Sister Maryanne and Sister Priscilla from Indonesia and Sister Claudia from Mexico to the Vatican this morning. We took the 6:30 a.m. bus and arrived about 6:45. The lines to get in were long already at that time.
So we got in line. All the entrances were blocked at that hour but there were people all over. We heard that they were opening the gates at 7:30 and so we had our tickets ready. At 7:25, all those in the line we in were told that we had to go to another line as they didn’t have any security equipment where we were. (We were close enough to the front of the line but not at the very beginning so couldn’t see; anyway, no one was sure they were going to do actual security checks.)
Anyway, it rather reminded me of the first being last and the last being first as we had to turn around and got into another line. Now we were no where near the beginning but not near the end either as people kept coming. Being in line in Italy is an experience. There really is no such thing as a line. It’s just a mass of people all trying to move at the same time. To say that there is pushing and shoving is a bit of an understatement.
Finally the gate was open – the security police were there to let in only a few (maybe 40-50) at a time. We were probably in the 7th or 8th group to be let past the first barrier. That brought us to the second barrier. We were not the only 50 or so to be let in. There were other gates that opened to this same area. So more pushing and shoving until the second barrier opened. Then we had to go through security – one at a time, but everyone in the group wanted to be that one.
Security is much like that at the airport. Everything you are carrying – I had my camera and purse (with a lunch in it) – has to be put on a conveyor belt to be screened. When it is deemed safe, then the person goes through a screening gate, doorway and we needed to collect our things. Then there were barriers to keep the crowd going in the right direction.
We were in the first section about midway. There were lots of people in front of us but even more – lots, lots more behind us. It was about 8:30 when we got to our seats so we had about two hours. At 9:00 I looked behind us, all the chairs seemed to be taken and people were standing everywhere.
At 10:30 it all began. I couldn’t see a thing as everyone around me was standing on his/her chair. You know the saying “When in Rome, do . . .” and so I did. It was fantastic. The Holy Father rode all through the crowd in the pope mobile. He really didn’t get all that close to us – the aisle near us was too narrow, but we turned with the crowd to watch and sometimes see where the pope mobile was. It was difficult to get a picture as heads blocked the view of the camera, but I did get one halfway decent picture.
It was a wonderful experience. St Peter’s square was full of people and you could see people standing in the street that enters into the square and in every side street. The crowd was waving flags, and shouting “Viva Papa, clapping and cheering. People were there from all over the world.
After the Holy Father went to the front, the expected festivities began. First there was a reading from Collossians in many languages. I’m not sure how many languages he gave his message in – Latin (I think), Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Polish, Czeck, etc., etc., etc.
Basically, he thanked people for their prayers over these past eight years, encouraged prayers and support for the new pope, asked for continued prayers for himself and promised to pray for all of us. At the end, he led the singing of the Our Father in Latin and gave us his blessing for ourselves, our families, our communities, the sick not present, any religious articles we had with us. And it was over. It was an experience I will not forget.
It took a while to leave as most were leaving. Sister Maryanne and I managed to get to a bus that had room for us to squeeze in and were on our way. The other two ended up waiting a bit but were home about ten minutes after we got here.
This afternoon, Sister Monica Mary and I went to the Aisian market and the Chinese market to get some spices that the Indonesian Sisters especially like. Most interesting. Everything, including the fish is fresh. (Some of the fish were still living on ice. We didn’t get any – I’m sure those on the crowded buses would not have appreciated fish being added to the other smells.)
We prayed and had supper. A memorable day has ended. Oh, we did see some Immaculate Heart Sisters from Nigeria in line this morning and I did greet them but it was hard to have any conversation – in fact it was hard to get near them even to say hello. This afternoon, on the bus, we met Sister Mary Christine. Special greetings to Sister Maria Eche and Sister Rose Maura,
Blessiings – you all received an Apostolic blessing this morning.
Sister Monica Mary and I took a bus to near the Vatican today. People, people, people. It should be even busier tomorrow. News cameras are being set up every where. The audience begins at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. I think we are leaving here around 6:30 a.m. (It is only a twenty-thirty minute walk)
Right after we got off the bus today, we saw someone we knew — Bishop Zubik! We stood and talked a while. Was good to see him.