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The Papal Fiat

September 23rd, 2016 nmguar18

There are few things that justify waking up at the ungodly hour of 3:00 AM, and one of those things is the very godly event that is a papal audience. Now if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, then you will remember that I recommended 7:00 AM as the time to visit the Vatican, as the crowds are nonexistent. Throw that out if you’re going to a papal audience, because I got there at 4:00 and I wasn’t even the first person in line yet.

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That is the line at 4:30. Granted, most of the line is made up of Americans (and one old Italian lady that sees the Pope every Wednesday), but a line is a line. And considering the entire city is dead at 4:30, that’s something.

Well, not all of the city is dead. There was one cafe open near the Vatican that, inevitably, we all ended up going too. From this cafe I learned two very important things.

  1. If you order a cappuccino and cornetto in English, then the baristo will make a nice heart or wave design in your coffee, serve you your cornetto with a smile, and charge you 3.50. If you order in Italian, you’ll get your coffee and cornetto in 20 seconds, without any frills, and pay 1.50.
  2. Nearly as soon as the cafe opened, about a dozen old Italian men gathered for their obligatory coffee and cig. It was just a sea of grey hair and greetings. As my friend and roommate Richard put it, “no matter where you go, there’s gonna be a social club.”

After my coffee I hurried back to the front of the line, where some friends had saved me a space. Luckily this space was under the the canopy of columns, as it started to rain. While my friends bought rain ponchos from the enterprising gypsies, I was dry and appreciating the spitting gargoyles.

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During this time one American girl was standing on the base of a column to stay dry. This would not be tolerated by a carabiniero who, from his side of the guarded security fence that protects the Vatican, went up to her and yelled, and I quote, “Don’t stand there! Respect for Italy! You Americans, always ‘spaghetti, mandolini’, but no respect!” She got off the column.

Oh, but when the Vatican opened it flooded with those Americans… as well as Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Frenchmen, Polish, Portuguese, Brazilians, Central Americans, an Indonesian dance group, and a surprising amount of Slovakian soldiers in full military dress. They, without a doubt, were the winners of the nonexistent contest for, despite their being about 2 dozen of them in total, they had the biggest flag.

I had snagged a seat close to Saint Peter’s.

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And, more importantly, it was an aisle seat. This will be important later.

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And why was it important? Because of the Popemobile of course! Il Papa drives by all the aisle seats in his Pontifical Fiat!

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Now this picture is terrible quality, I know. There are clearer pictures of Bigfoot. But when Papa Francesco was making his rounds I got caught up in the moment and was too busy dealing with the Catholic Mosh Pit to snap a good picture.

BUT THEN HE WENT AROUND A SECOND TIME AND I GOT A PICTURE OF HIM SMILING!

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He was much more energetic during this round. Peace signs, thumbs up, telling people to stop standing on the chairs because they’re not alloyed to stand on the chairs but they do it anyway, it was great!

Afterwards he gave a reading from the Gospel of Luke and gave a sermon in Italian about the virtue of mercy. Mercy is kind of his thing. This sermon was then translated into Spanish, German, French, Polish, Portuguese, Indonesian, and even Slovakian (I imagine for those soldiers with the gigantic flag). He blessed any religious articles we were carrying (and I know people that were buying rosaries in bulk – and when I mean in bulk I mean by the dozen – for the event) and we all said the Our Father in Latin (woohoo, Latin!)

Then the crowd started to disperse. Small crowd, just tens of thousands.

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This whole Vatican voyage lasted about ten hours and I was pooped. I want back to campus, threw myself in bed for a short nap, and woke up at 7:00 AM the next day. Well worth it though to catch a few glimpses of the big man in the pointy hat.

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Nicholas Guarracino '18

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