On a recent trip to Rome, my friends and I walked to St. Peter’s Square on a Sunday morning, hoping for a chance to see Pope Francis bless the crowd.
Our guidebooks said that every Sunday at noon, when he’s in residence, he appears at the window of the papal apartments to lead the crowds gathered below in prayer. We had no tickets. We just stood in the back of a huge crowd, waiting.
A long mass ensued, featuring Latin chants and beautiful classical music, but we couldn’t tell on the Jumbotron screens who was speaking. Eventually, we saw movement and heard a buzz in the crowd. Was it the Pope? Yes, indeed, right there on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica. We were so far away that he appeared like little more than a white dot. But we could see him walking up and down the steps, surrounded by cardinals. He seemed in no hurry, taking lots of time to bless the many people, especially children, who’d come early enough to nab chairs in front.
After standing for two hours in the sunshine, with perspiration dripping down our backs, we considered leaving. But one of my friends noticed people jostling for position along a nearby rope line that seemed to clear a path through the crowd. So we stayed. And we were rewarded when Pope Francis hopped onto the popemobile and began slowly roaming the square.
We could see his white skullcap and flowing white robes as the vehicle skirted the edges of the crowd, outlined by the familiar marble columns with statues of saints and martyrs on top. Crowd noise rose as children and adults pushed forward. Arms raised to wave or snap photos.
I’m not a Catholic, but the excitement was infectious. I was so surprised when he passed our group that I didn’t even think to raise my camera. But just in case he passed by again, I got my iPhone ready and maneuvered as close as I could get to the rope line, maybe five people back.
Sure enough, the popemobile made another loop. I started filming and as the video rolled, Pope Francis came closer and closer. Watch it on a large screen if you can. And stay tuned until the end. He lifts his eyebrows with a mischievous smile. It’s as if he’s looking just at me.