That one time I met the Pope

21 Jan

Well… OK… I didn’t actually “meet” the Pope, but I was ten feet away from him so that counts for me. Whether you’re Catholic or not, I think we can all agree Pope Francis is a pretty cool guy. When I knew Rome was a reality, I did a ton of research on Vatican City and all the amazing things we could see there. I soon discovered the Pope holds a General Audience every Wednesday morning in Saint Peter’s Square.

I couldn’t miss an opportunity to see the big guy, so with little notice, I sent a request to the Bishops’ Office for U.S. Visitors to the Vatican. I actually didn’t hear from them until we were already in Rome.

Tickets for the Papal Audience in Saint Peter's Square in Rome |

Dear Mary Jo,

Thank you for your email. We will be happy to request 2 biglietti (ticket invitations) for the Papal Audience on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. Please come for your tickets on the Tuesday afternoon before the Audience between 3-7 p.m.  Tickets must be picked up in person either by you or your representative. When you come to pick up your tickets, we will give you a full orientation about what to expect at the Wednesday audience.  May you enjoy safe travel and a spiritually fruitful visit to Roma.

Respectfully in Christ,
Sister Mary Christa
Coordinator of the US Bishops’ Visitors Office

I was super excited! And luckily Sebastian and I had plans to visit the Trevi Fountain on Tuesday, which is right by the Pontifical North American College – where you pick up the tickets. We found the office and went through the quick orientation. Some things we were told to expect at the audience: arrive super early (you have tickets but they aren’t guaranteed), pick an aisle seat so you’ll be closer to the action, watch out for the little old ladies who’ve waited their whole lives to see the Pope, beware of children crowd surfing to get close to the Pope and prepare yourself for a big Catholic pep rally. The orientation had me even more excited!

Long line to Saint Peter's Square |

Wednesday morning we arrived at 6:45a.m. to a long line already forming to enter Saint Peter’s Square. People were anxious and we had a quite some time to go since the audience didn’t start until 10:30a.m. After throwing a few elbows navigating the crowds, we found seats along an aisle not too far from the front. Now we just had to wait, but it was one of those mornings where you didn’t mind waiting (well at least I didn’t). I was sitting in beautiful Saint Peter’s Square with the Basilica as my backdrop, surrounded by thousands of people excited to celebrate with Pope Francis. Everyone was buzzing with excitement, flags were being waved and children were chanting “Papa Francesca!”.

Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome Italy |

Saint Peter's Square in Rome |

Papal Audience in Rome Italy |

Excited crowds at the Papal Audience at Saint Peter's Square |

And then we heard cheers from the other side of the square – the Pope had arrived. Before taking his seat, Pope Francis drives around and greets individuals, receives gifts and blesses the children. There is literally one attendant who hands toddlers and babies to the Pope – it is his only job. After watching everyone else get a chance to see him, I was worried he wouldn’t come down our aisle, but soon he was turning the corner and heading our way. I was about to be right next to Pope Francis! I had my phone ready to capture the moment, and then as he passed I waved like an idiot at him. What else do you do when you see the Pope? You wave, haha!

Seeing Pope Francis at Saint Peter's Square |

Pope Francis at Saint Peter's Square in Rome |

After the Pope had greeted everyone along the aisles – the audience began. Pope Francis gave a greeting, then a representative of each language in attendance gave a reading. There were several different languages spoken that morning, including English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Polish, Arabic and Portuguese. After the readings, Pope Francis gave a homily in Italian and finally he blessed everyone in attendance. It went by quicker than I expected, and before we knew it the audience was over and people were leaving the square.

Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome |

It is truly an experience I will never forget. I wish I could bottle how I felt that morning standing in Saint Peter’s Square listening to Pope Francis and feeling so at peace.

Whether you’re Catholic or not, I highly recommend attending the Papal Audience in Roma. It is so, so lovely and a beautiful way to start your day. If you want to learn more about the General Audience and how to get tickets, visit

2 Responses to “That one time I met the Pope”

  1. Pat 01/21/2014 at 7:29 am #

    AWESOME! Mary Jo. I got GOOSE BUMPS just reading your experience at seeing the POPE….What an honor an privilege ….. Happy for you.and Sebastian…. Xox

  2. Uncle Bob 01/22/2014 at 12:40 am #

    What a great experience! I was able to visit the cathedral (not the Papal meeting) just a chance to go through the Cathedral itself. It was 1957 and we were being transferred from Germany to Turkey (in those days you didn’t always fly between duty stations) We were only in Rome for a few hours. I took a bus tour around the Collusium and to St Peters square. I’m so glad you got to see it. We travelling by train from Bremerhaven to Naples Italy for our plane ride to Istanbul. It wasmy first plane ride (a DC-2 !). there were no seats, only the buckt rail seats along the side of the plane. It was an 8 hour plane ride! Needless to say i wasn’t impressed with my first plane experience. But I enjoyed seeing the Cathedral… Love ya

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