Sundays are my favourite day of the week. I usually spend the ‘day of rest’ doing exactly that; Chilling, rejuvanating and catching up with friends & family. But as relaxing as it was, this Sunday has been pretty momentous. As I write this, I’m in the Vatican City, soaking in the sunshine on some marble steps against the white mammoth pillars of St Peter’s Square, with Bernini’s statues of 130 saints and apostles above me, and St Peter’s basilica looming up ahead.
Breathtaking scenery aside, today was particularly special because I was able to fulfil a bucket list item of attending the Pope’s Easter Sunday mass in the Vatican. After the horrifying events in Brussels this week, I had half a mind to cancel this trip but fortunately kept my faith and stuck with the plan.
Getting here didn’t come without advance planning. The Pope’s Sunday mass is ticketed (but free) – thankfully, my mum knows a nun here in Rome who sorted out everything for me a month or so ago. I’m hella glad I didn’t have to go through the stresses of arranging it myself, as apparently these things book our months in advance! Somehow I got allocated extra tickets, so I was able to help out 2 stressed out tourists who weren’t so fortunate (or perhaps well researched) to secure some beforehand.
However, obtaining the ticket is half the battle as it doesn’t necessarily guarantee entry nor a seat. So while the mass didn’t start til 10.15am, I was waiting at the gates at 7am. And I was far from the first person there! With some luck, I had found out about a side entrance that is much less crowded (the side gate close to the Vatican Museum, if anyone’s ever keen on making the pilgrimage). After 8am or so, the police started letting people in and it was pretty epic – if you could imagine, there were adults, youths, nuns and the elderly in a foot race down the road to get into the square and secure the best front-of-house seats. To be honest, I felt a bit guilty passing by elderly people on that run – It really wasn’t a fair race and definitely wasn’t one of my proudest moments 😦
Having gotten myself a seat in the front section of the square (woohoo) after an airport style security check, it was time to sit in for the 2 hour wait. But Italy had given us a bright sunny day, so no complaints!
Could the weather BE anymore perfect?
Close to mass-time, the bells started chiming through the square, the choirs were singing and the Swiss Guard started marching in. With their uniforms, spears and Roman helmets, accompanied by a marching band, it was quite impressive. Up on stage, amongst the important looking people, everyday men, women and children of seemingly African, Middle Eastern and European descent started filing in. Never found out who they were, but given the pope’s actions on Holy Thursday (washing and kissing the feet of refugees), I wouldn’t be surprised if they were indeed migrants, which was a really nice thing to see.
The atmosphere was pretty elevated – lots of excited people from all over the world, many in their Sunday’s best, and sharp looking security in their Italian suits and sunnies. Up on top of the surrounding pillars were film crews, more agents and Swiss Guards keeping watch. Music was playing and the large screens projected panoramas of the packed out square … Which was briefly interrupted for a Eurovision ad every now and then (naturally the next most significant event on the European calendar.. 😉).
Then mass started, the pope appeared on stage and the 2 Italian nonnas in front of me, in their Pope Francis tshirts and metallic eyeshadow, started going cray – clambering over and in front of people to get snaps of him! If ever there was a rockstar pope, it’s probably gotta be good ol Papa Francisco😊
The service was an extremely international affair. The written program was primarily translated in Latin, Italian and English, however, different parts of the actual mass were spoken/read in a variety of languages – Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, Arabic, Greek, Chinese, Russian, German and English.
After the service finished, Pope Francis proceeded to the pope-mobile to get out amongst the masses. He did some happy laps through the square and out into the street, to a very adoring crowd in the tens of thousands. Props to him for getting out to the people despite the current unfortunate state of affairs!
Then at midday, he appeared on the balcony of St Peters Basilica to give his Easter address, or the “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the city and to the world”). That was quite a sight, seeing him up there standing underneath the defiant statues of Christ and the apostles as he delivered his message. He finished up, waved to the crowd for a few moments, who had started chanting “Viva il papa!’ (Long live the pope) and saw off the Swiss Guards, before disappearing behind the mystical red curtain.
And that was Easter sunday Papal mass! Not sure what Papa Francisco got up to after, but for me, it was time for pasta, some coffee, a walk through the Basilica and then a sweet sunbake under the Italian sun. All in all, the most perfect Sunday! Happy Easter everyone 😁