One lazy day last week, we were sitting around the apartment talking about what we’d do when my mum arrived. We had planned to see the sites, do some window shopping, and a trip to the Vatican, but needed an extra thing or two to beef up the itinerary. Tyler suggested going to the Wednesday General Papal Audience, held at the Vatican: tickets are free of charge, and it’s a one and a half hour service, where the Pope is present.
We let it pass as we got distracted with Baby, but a day later we met a girl in line at the bank who had just come from the service. She said it was a wonderful experience and because she was volunteering with a group of special needs children, they got to meet the Pope. I joked later to Tyler that with the reverence Italians have toward children, perhaps Baby would meet the Pope if we went…he is after all, named after Tyler’s mentor, who is named after Saint Wenceslaus, so it was only fitting. Hearing about what a wonderful time this girl had, we decided to order the free tickets.
The service didn’t start until 10 am, but we arrived at St Peter’s Square at 8:15 this morning — the weather was meant to thunder storm, and the skies were certainly dark, but the 6500 seats filled, and there were about an equal number of people standing. Luckily, we had seats that were four in from an aisle which meant that when the Pope passed us, we’d get a good view of him.
Baby did well people watching and being passed between Tyler, my mum and myself and then an hour later started to fuss. We wondered if it were worth staying, as the service itself was another 45 minutes away, and then an hour and a half after that of more sitting. We changed Baby, and laid him out across the chair so he could kick. Then we fed him, and wandered with him, hoping to settle him. Tyler stood closer to the railing to let Baby have a change of scenery.
The music began, and different church groups were acknowledged for having made their pilgrimage to Rome to attend the Papal Audience. As each group’s name was read, cheers rang in different areas of the audience, as a thank-you for the shout out. This lasted about 20 minutes, and then a sudden rush of energy surged through the crowd as Pope Francis emerged in the Popemobile making his way through the audience blessing people periodically as he went: he had eight security guards surrounding his vehicle the whole time. Nearly everyone in the audience climbed onto their seat hoping to get a better view, and like a tennis match, everyone’s head followed the Pope whichever way he went.
The Pope’s car turned and started heading in our direction. Tyler, Baby, and my mum were still standing at the edge of the aisle, making them front row, and were being squashed against the barricade as people hoped to catch a glimpse of him. I stood tall on my chair, just a few feet away, mostly watching the progression through the large TV screen hung closest to me. The first of his security team passed us, and then the second.
At this point:
“The Pope is directly in front of Tyler, mum and Baby. We were so close to having Baby blessed, but he’s looking the other way.”
“We’ve got a chance at this, because I saw the security guards approaching. This was our moment, and I knew Baby might be next. The woman behind me just keep patting my back saying something over and over in Italian, that must have been along the lines of ‘here comes the Pope.’”
“We have come so close to meeting the Pope, we are on the railing, and it’s all on me. I have to make this happen.”
And he did. With the help of the 10 or so people in their direct area, everyone grouped together, all yelling “bambino, bambino!” and clearing the way, ushering Tyler up as close as they could to encourage his chance, as if it were their own baby that might get blessed. The third security guard reached for Baby, and took him to the Pope. He held him high, and Pope Francis leaned down for a big smooch!
“That’s my baby!” I yelled to the person on the chair next to me, to which he replied, equally excited, “THAT’S YOUR BABY!” We were both laughing so hard.
Tyler, my mum and Baby came back and we all laughed and laughed, and then it happened — nearly every person in a three row radius of us came over saying “what’s your email? I have a video, I have a photo!” that they were all willing to share.
What an experience! What a literal, blessing.