Saturday, June 06, 2015

Umbria - Back in Rome with Pope Francis

Another blog entry about our trip to Umbria.

The bulk of our group returned to Rome Saturday afternoon and flew back to the States on Sunday morning.  Because of the limited frequent flyer opportunities, Julie and I were flying back Monday, which meant one more day in Rome.  When we had visited the Vatican at the beginning of our trip, we thought it might be nice to come back to St Peters Square and watch the Pope give his weekly blessing. 

It turns out that our timing was incredible.  Instead of a normal blessing, there was a canonization of four nuns into sainthood.  That's a seriously big deal.  These ladies were all born in the 1800s and were just now being recognized at this level. We decided we would try to go see it, but we got conflicting information about whether tickets were required or not.

We got up early and took the subway to the Vatican.  We knew this was going to be a big event when the Sunday 7:30am  subway was full of people getting off at our stop.  By the time we got to the square it was about 8:00am.  This is a big commitment for me.  The service didn't start until 10:00 and I am not Catholic, or even religious for that matter. I knew we would be waiting for two hours.

With a little sweet talk, we got into the section where you were supposed to have tickets and got to sit about 20 rows back.  They were kind enough to be handing out a program, which gave details of the service and the four women who were being canonized.   Interestingly enough, two were from Palestine.  Not where you normally think of your Catholic saints coming from.
Up on the stage were two sets of important people:  church leaders and dignitaries.  Everyone was dressed in their religious and dignitary finest.  I am not sure what his role is, but I really like the guy who gets to wear the gold robe and gold bucket hat.
It was a full mass, given by the Pope.  He's on the left.  I love the Swiss Guards though.  They add a lot of color to the picture.  I hope he has some weapon other than that spear though.
There was a tremendous amount of formal procedure going on, and I could only understand bits and pieces.  However, a group representing each new saint came up and put a lovely bangle on this table.  From a distance,  each item looked to be worth more than the four nuns saw in their entire lifetimes.
Two things of interest.  The most obvious is the great guard pose.  Second is the hatless state of the cardinals.  During the course of the service, they wore beanies, then some ugly hats to protect them from the blazing sun, then nothing and they all still had one more tucked away.
We were wondering how they would handle communion.  Amazingly, 100 or so cardinals, bishops and such worked out into the crowd, each one giving communion to a group the size of a small church.  A lot of the crowd had traveled from far away countries, just for this event.  You could really get a feel for the emotion some people were feeling.
A closer shot of the Pope and his entourage.  He had bible holders, page turners providers of things such as crosses and holy water and a fashion coordinator helping him with his pope hat.
Now it was time for the last hat.  As best I can figure, this was some form of joke.  "Look, we all look just like the Pope!"  I can't imagine where they were all hiding their Pope hats.  Those robes must have some monster big pockets.
We were in row 20.  Sometime after we arrived and got our seats, another 80-100 thousand people showed up.   This would have been a great shot with a drone.
At the end of the service, the Pope hopped into the Popemobile and drove all through the crowds.  This guy is brave.   No protective glass and literally stopping to kiss babies and issue some instant blessings.
He seemed to really be enjoying the crowd surfing.  I hope is other car is a nice convertible.
Like our day in Gubbio, this was an incredible, memorable day that we just happened to luck into.  The only thing I can offer is that when something like this presents itself, don't hesitate!  Do it!
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