Rome sweet home (4)- How do I get to see the Pope?
Even though I had scheduled this article way down on the list, I can sense from the number of mails that this, for obvious reasons, is number one on the list of most Catholics visiting the Vatican. So let’s just address the issue.
Besides certain public celebrations of the Eucharist for which you need a pass, the Holy Father also makes two public appearances each week if he is in the Vatican. It is advisable to check the Vatican website and check the Holy Father’s public schedules. Simply use the link http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/en/udienze_en.html
Once you are certain that the Holy Father is in the Vatican you have a choice of seeing him on a Sunday or Wednesday. Both these audiences are free so don’t get conned by anyone trying to sell you a ticket and trust me Rome is full of them, some masquerading as priests and nuns.
The most popular audience is the one held every Wednesday. In summer this is held in the Piazza (St Peters square) and in winter in the Paul VI Audience Hall also known as the Hall of the Pontifical Audiences which seats 6,300 people. Both experiences have a charm of their own.
In order to attend the Papal audience on Wednesday you need to write in or fax the Vatican requesting for tickets. As soon as you plan your trip to Rome (and I hope that’s at least two months in advance) you should contact the prefecture of the Pontifical household. Write to: Prefecture of the Papal Household, 00120 Vatican City State – Fax: +39 06 6988 5863. Before you write in download the form and indicate the date of the general audience or liturgical celebration (for mass), number of tickets required, name / group, mailing address, telephone and fax numbers.
Provided here is the link with the details and the form you need to download, simply fill and send. If you have special circumstances you should mention that too, for it might get you a yellow ticket permitting you to be seated in the podium area besides the Holy Father. If you are recently married in the last six months, you might even get to meet the Pope himself. You could write to the same address attaching your marriage certificate and letter from the parish priest. If you do get a response then you have to present yourself in your gown and suit. I have just applied for a couple and am now hoping we get a positive response. http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/en/biglietti_en.html
Once you do this you will receive a mail asking you to collect the passes which you will have to pick up at the Bronze door (under the right-hand colonnade in St Peter’s Square) between 15:00 and 19:00 on the preceding afternoon, or on the morning of the audience from 7 am but I suggest you do it the day before. You will need to present your letter and some identification.
If you did not have the time to write in earlier asking for the tickets, you could simply try your luck and approach one of the Swiss guards standing at the Porta Santa Anna (Gate of St Anne).How do you get there? If you’re facing St Peter’s, walk to your right under the colonnade (the pillars), walk past the small fountain of papal tiaras which you will see on your right and then look for the large gate on the left. Enter the gate on the left side and speak to the guard (the other Swiss guards won’t make conversation while on duty)
In case you can’t get any passes don’t panic. The Pope usually enters at about nine am( he also tends to come in a tad bit early at times) and takes a round in an open Pope mobile before he begins the audience. I suggest you walk down Via della Conciliazione and you will come to the famous white line which divides Rome and the Vatican City. There is a metal barricade. Walk to the left and just before the colonnade you will find an entry with security. (Do not go to the colonnade security). Indicate that you wish to enter and you will be admitted to the section which has no chairs. Get to the railing well before time and stick to it and look for a Swiss guard; that’s a clear indicator the Pope will pass by. Once you do that stick to the railing for this Pope makes it a point to get to the ends of the audience area.
If you are not in the seated area and If you have not purchased your religious articles to be blessed by the Holy Father I suggest you make a quick dash after he has passed you by to one of the stores around the Vatican. Do no purchase them from the wandering salesmen as they are exorbitant. I suggest you go to Soprani on Via del Mascherino, 29, 00193 Roma, Italy which is a four minutes’ walk (in the same direction as Porta Santa Anna) where you get religious articles in wholesale (look for the drawer section where you get packets of tens and hundreds)
You can then safely head back in an hours’ time to the Papal audience (the audience runs into several languages) in time for the Pater Noster or the Our Father, which is your cue to keep your religious articles out for the Papal Blessing that follows. If you get your passes to the seated area then I suggest you buy your religious articles a day before or purchase them from India ( if you are an Indian pilgrim) as it is much cheaper.
For those who are not in Rome on a Wednesday, you can simply gather in St Peters square on a Sunday a few minutes before noon and the Holy Father will appear from his office window in the Vatican (he does not use or live in the Papal apartments any more except for official functions) Look to the right of St Peter’s Basilica towards the Papal Apartments. The Holy Father ends the Angelus with a blessing.
In case you need more details, please feel free to write in
Fr Warner D’souza
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