Friday, June 15, 2012

Il Papa

As I write this blog I am about to attempt making an espresso with a Moka pot for the first time- I really really really really hope it works! Because otherwise I have a bag of espresso grounds that smell delicious and no talent with coffee.

The real reason for this post is that on Wednesday morning, I saw the pope! Or should it be, "The Pope?" I'll err on the side of caution.

The Pope holds an audience every Wednesday morning at the Vatican. A friend I met in Australia was in Rome with two of his friends this week, so the four of us went together. The day before they had to reserve tickets for us, and the night before they had to stop by a specific church office within a one hour window to see whether or not we got the tickets. I guess it wasn't a busy day for the pope because we got in! We were advised to arrive about two hours early, and as the address was at 10:30 we showed up close to 8:30. There was already a huge crowd waiting to get in and the crowd seemed to be mostly made up of groups. There was a group of pushy Italian school children and their even pushier teachers all wearing yellow hats who happened to cut us in line. There were couples in their wedding attire for a special blessing from the Pope. My very favorite group was close to one hundred Mexican teenagers dressed in traditional attire. The best thing about their group was that they also happened to be a marching band!

Once we cleared a metal detector, a bag scanner, and the Swiss Guards we wound back past St. Peter's and into a very strange auditorium. One of my first thoughts when we entered was "this looks very Protestant". No decorations, just a few sculptures.

It was only 9:30 by the time we sat down, so we had a solid hour to wait for the Pope (even more because he was LATE! How Italian). While we waited there was a small chamber orchestra who played from the audience, but they were virtually impossible to hear because the room was so loud. There was a choir I also couldn't hear. The only thing I could hear was the Mexican marching band! When it was their turn they played "La Bamba" and the Mexican hat dance, and other stereotypical songs. As soon as they began, the auditorium became chaos. Everyone stood up, clapped, danced, sang along.... I eventually realized that most of the europeans in the audience rarely hear marching bands, or see Mexican people.

When the Pope came in, people went crazier! I had been wondering if it's appropriate to hoot and holler for the Pope, apparently it is. He walked in pretty slowly and took his seat of honor at center stage. I had no idea what to expect from the program. It began with cardinals of different nations reading from the Bible, each in a different language for different audience members to understand. The English speaking cardinal was British and sounded like an announcer of some kind. Afterward the Pope delivered a LONG address in Italian which I may or may not have snoozed during. Then the cardinals came up again, each introduced groups that had travelled to see the pope who spoke the cardinals language. This took FOREVER. It was cool to see the groups from churches all over the world, an absurd amount of American students, the Mexican band, Anglican clergy, etc. When each group was introduced they would stand and hoot and holler, and the Pope would hold out his hand in greeting. A lot of the groups decided when they stood up to sing, which made the process even longer. I can't fault people for wanting to sing for the Pope though! After each cardinal was finished, the Pope would speak in the chosen language and give a message. When he spoke English it was so loud in the auditorium I could barely hear or understand him, so I didn't get much of the message. After going through this procedure for French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Phillipino, Portuguese... there was a blessing and the audience sang the Our Father in Latin. The three Protestants I was with and I just all looked at each other in confusion and let everyone else sing.

My apologies for the poor photos!

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