The Vatican City is the most amazing place I have been in my entire life. I’m a bit of a Catholic nerd, so one of my favorite parts of studying in Rome was visiting and attending mass at all of the amazing churches. The most famous church in Rome though by far is St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s is not only the largest Catholic church in the world, it is in the heart of the Pope’s home. The current Pope is Pope Francis, or as the Romans would say, Papa Francesco. In my time in Rome my apartment was only two blocks from the Vatican City, so I visited on four different occasions. My first visit was my friend and I walking up to the gate in front of the Basilica, stareing in disbelief, chatting with the guards on the Pope and all things Vatican City, then walking away with excitement on our next visit. My next visit was with my class where we explored the Vatican Museum, spent time in the Sistine Chapel, marveled at the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, attended mass in the St. Joseph’s chapel section of the Basilica, and walking home. My third visit was with my mom where we had our first siting of the Pope, attended mass, had confession with a very sassy German priest, and explored St. Peter’s Basilica. This day was also my mom’s first siting and my second of my favorite sculpture in the world, La Pieta. My last visit was by far the most memorable. With it being our last week in Rome, it also happened to be the first weekend the Pope was back to regularly scheduled visit and blessing to the Vatican audience. My friend and I started our early morning off by going into St. Peter’s Basilica to see what it is like in the uncrowded 7am hours…plus we got in the wrong line and ended up in the Basilica instead of in the Pope’s audience. While we were there I saw the opening to Peter’s burial downstairs was unguarded in the early morning hours, so my friend and I snuck downstairs, prayed in a chapel of priests, found Peter’s bones, and were then escorted by a frustrated Vatican security guard that spoke no English, but could definitely tell we did not belong down there. Once I located a security guard that understood ‘un po English’, we found out we were in the wrong place to meet Pope Francis. Once we made out way to the line for the Pope, we just barely got in and had seats in the back. The next hour of hearing prayers in Spanish by Papa Francesco and receiving a blessing from the Pope himself was breathtaking. My friend and I were geeking out the entire time, similar to a young 13 year old meeting Hannah Montana in the early 2000s. We had heard rumbles that the Pope would come back out into the audience at the end but it was not guaranteed, so only about 10% of the audience stayed, praying to have a close encounter with Pope Francis. Forty-five minutes of personal blessings later, the Pope started his final trip through the audience and the most amazing moment of my life happened; I came within just two inches of THE POPE FRANCIS! I was floating for the next weeks at the memory and reliving of the fact that I came within hug space of Pope Francis. The perfect way to end an amazing trip and totally worth being late to my final class presentation.
P.S. It’s okay, once my teacher heard the Pope story she was glad I was late! :)