The day started early---4:55 AM. Left the Villa at 6:30 to head for Vatican City. Looked up to the right as we walked out the door and realized that we can see the statues on top of the Lateran Basilica. We got in the line for security at 7:10---and marveled at the number of people from other countries/cultures who think that it's ok to cut the line....that's all I'm gonna say......had Idina Menzel playing in my head...."let it go, let it go.."
They opened security a bit early, and we found seats up front by 8:10AM-----and settled in for a morning of people watching while we waited. Turns out that we didn't have to wait long, because they start the audience early when it's hot outside. It was, and they did.
It started with a bishop arriving on stage to announce many of the groups in attendance----lots of screaming and yelling and cheering. And then....
They have huge video screens in the square, so that you can see and hear everything....and at 9:48, the screen showed Pope Francis standing up in the Popemobile, waving excitedly at everyone who was waiting for him to drive out. He was sort of "backstage"--on the left side of the Basilica---but the people who were behind the security lines could see him and they started waving wildly at him, and he waved back. It seemed like he was thinking that they couldn't get him out there soon enough----he seemed just as excited to see everyone as we were to see him. Then they drove him out into the square, and the place went wild. Absolutely wild. We were within maybe 20 yards of the barricade, so I watched him drive by the front of the crowd, zoomed in and waited---and there he was!
They stopped the car in front of us so that he could greet people, and then he was off again. They kept the cameras on throughout his entire journey around the square----probably 25 min or so. He kissed babies, greeted a developmentally disabled young man who burst into tears when Pope Francis jumped off to hug him. And that's how it went. We had great seats for the Pope's Wed. morning party, and it was a good one.
His whole demeanor was amazing---he was like a little boy on Christmas morning---so excited to see people. It was not at all like "hey, look at me, I'm the Pope!'----it was "Hey, look....the square is full of people who love Jesus, and I get to go meet them---isn't that just the BEST?" His energy rippled across the square like a flood---and there were people as far as you could see. He is full of love and loaded with joy, and it is beyond contagious. He drives his security detail crazy, and it isn't hard to see why.
He finally got back to the stage and things settled down for the formal part of the audience. The pope spoke----very low key----but he gets very animated when he goes off-script, which he does a lot---he received greetings from groups, several bishops spoke......they talked longer than he did.
My dose of reality: I was sitting in the midst of a group of teens from a parish in Italy-----and right next to two young women who spent the entire audience texting and and talking on their iphones, but mostly texting. Seriously. It's a good thing I don't speak Italian. That is all.
We prayed The Lord's Prayer in Latin, he blessed us (and all our families, friends and stuff), and it was over. He stayed to greet a number of people, dignitaries, newly married couples, all kinds of folks.
And I noticed that his demeanor changed when the audience ended. He had seemed tired and subdued (except when he went off-script) during the audience---but the minute it was over and he could greet people again, he was exuberant.
I think he would be happiest if the audience allowed more time for driving through the crowds in the square, and less time with speeches.
That said---an inspiring moment, to be sure. We are so blessed to have him as our Pope.
1. Statues on top of the Lateran Basilica at sunrise--somehow that seemed significant
2. In front of St Peter's Basilica---the view from our seats (the Pope speaks from under the canopy up on the stairs, and you can also see the huge video screen to the right)
3, 4, 5 Working the crowd
6. Going off-script