On Wednesday, November 18, 2015 the St. Paul Pilgrims attended an audience with the Holy Father, Pope Francis. We had an early 5:00 a.m. wakeup call to allow us time to eat breakfast and arrive at the security gates of St. Peter’s Square by 8:30 a.m. Since this visit was four days after the Paris terrorist attacks, security was thorough but unobtrusive. We did not see any Italian soldiers at the Square until several buses were seen loading them more than one-half hour after the conclusion of the papal audience.
We arrived at the security gates almost one-half hour before they opened. However since we were near the front of the lines, once admitted, we were able to obtain seating close to the front of the papal audience area. Since we had more than an hour before the scheduled appearance of the Pontiff we enjoyed the festive mood of pilgrims from all over the world. It was abundantly clear how much Pope Francis was loved by the Latin American people as they shouted “Il Papa we love you” and held their babies for the Pontiff to kiss as his vehicle passed close to the barricades where they were standing. The tears in their eyes and the passion in their voices as they cheered and waved their national flag as he passed them was both an inspirational and emotional display of love.
Approximately one-half hour before the Pope appeared, a papal assistant introduced over the loud speakers, the attending groups and their home countries to all in attendance. Another emotional moment occurred when we heard the announcer say, “St. Paul and St. Martin Parish from Ithaca, Michigan”. Words cannot express the gratitude the St. Paul pilgrims felt for the extraordinary effort Fr. Andrzej extended in arranging this audience with Pope Francis.
Read Pope Francis’ papal visit letter written for those in attendance with us at his papal audience: Pope Francis General Audience Letter, Wednesday, November 18, 2015