So, we’ve missed a day in our travels but nothing much went on yesterday. We went and visited the protestant cemetary which was gorgeous and the most important thing, we did laundry. We also had dinner with Sue’s friend Bianca and she ran us around Trastevere for a bit.
Well, there’s on for the ole bucket list. Attend the canonization of one of the greatest pope’s the catholic church has seen.
Reading the reports and hearing the murmerings of the locals we made up a new game plan for attending the canonization. We figured we would outsmart everyone else and get up at 4am and be at St. Peter’s square by 4:30am. We made it out of the house by about twenty after four and raced through the train station (Under pass) and meet a gaggle of nuns. We laughed at first and thought, “Wow, they are getting an early start too”. Then we turned onto Via di Porta Cavalleggeri and were shocked to see hundred’s of people racing in the same direction we were.
As we were walking we met 2 very nice english speaking people, one was irish and the other Canadian and they both lived in Edinborough, Scotland. We walked with them until we reached Via San Pio X. This is when the morning got interesting. We crashed into thousands of people, AT 4:40AM!!! I truly was taken back. Now, I will say right up front that I won’t be speaking about any of the negatives.
As we all started to walk together the group, for lack of a better term, became one. There was no where to go but forward once you were caught in this. Slowly and steadily the group made it onto Via della Conciliazione which ends up at St. Peter’s. The hope of many was that we would end up there because of the fact we got up so early but as we turned the corner and stopped it became very clear we weren’t going to be in the square for the mass.
We stood until 9:00am when the screens all started turning on and they were playing videos of JPII and John XXIII. Really interesting videos of their travels and meetings, etc… The great thing about where we ended up was that it was right in front of an LCD screen and speakers.
At 9:30am there were some annoucements that came on, I couldn’t tell you what they said because they were all in Italian. Then the litanany of the saints began. It was beautifully chanted as all the bishops and cardinals process into the square. It really felt like the whos who of the Catholic world was there. I don’t know the final count for the pilgrams but there were 61 delegations representing 54 countries, 19 heads of State, 24 premiers and 23 ministers. I’m not sure how many Cardinals, Bishops or Clergy where there, my best guess…. LOTS
As Pope Francis came out and the crowds roared and the mass began. It was a beautiful ceremony, all in Italian, which didn’t surprise me but also disappointed me a little bit. Pope Francis spoke about St. John XXIII and called him a servant leader while when he spoke of St. JP II he called him the Pope of the family.
The mass was very moving. It started out with Pope Francis declaring our two new saints of the church and then there was a very interesting ceremony, which involved what Sue and I believe are relics of the two saints. They were placed in beautiful, I assume crystal vases and surrounded by candles. It was done quite nicely.
Something else I thought was irritating at first was that the video and the audio wasn’t in sync. What ended up being really cool musically was the fact that the chanting sounded like it was going in waves. They obviously didn’t have the signals equalized properly because it was fine at the front and every set of speakers if would loose 2 seconds. So, by the time the chant was over you could still hear them chanted behind us. I thought it was neat but I’m a nerd that way.
We stood by some young Italians who offered us fresh baked goods from their hometown before mass started. They were very sweet and to the other side of us were a Filipino lady and her husband who really looked out for us. He and I were the biggest guys in our general vicinity, which made me feel good.
There really isn’t too much more to say. We are both exhausted and Sue is napping as I write this. We ended up back at the apartment at a little after 1pm.
The energy in Rome right now is electric. Everyone is excited. Everyone is happy. They are happy about both Popes but I believe St. JP II really has a special place in everyone’s hearts here.
It was wonderful to see Pope Emeritus Benedict attend the canonization this morning as well. His features have softened as he has gotten older. He reminds me of my grandfather now. From what people where saying he is doing well and is in good health for 86 years young.
As we were walking back to the apartment Sue and I discussed if we would ever do something like this again. I hate to say it but the answer would be no. It was a very blessed day and yes Sue, and I and even our little bundle of joy that we are expecting on November 9th can say that we were at the canonization of St. JP II but there were some negatives, which really don’t need to spoil this awesome day.
Time for a quick nap, then off to meet our friend Ivey for dinner and get her perspective on the day.