I’ve been to a lot of papal events over the last 20 years, hundreds for sure. I’ve sat in fancy seats, gotten into VIP events, attended private Masses, and private concerts. I was involved in a few fun viral moments, the stolen Pope hat and Perfect Peter.
None of those Papal events compare to the new Papal Audience experience. Here’s my video from the first San Damaso Audience two weeks ago.
The General Audience in the piazza and in the Paul VI Auditorium are great. They are fun, people sing, people hold up signs, the drive-by is always so exciting.
But this intimate setting of around 500 people is different.
The line to get in is calm. People are respectful of distancing. There’s no sprinting or shoving or yelling. The seats are spaced out, no one is trying to steal seats or hold seats or stand in front of anyone.
The nearly two hours we wait for the Holy Father to arrive are quiet and prayerful.
When the Holy Father arrives, people cheer as he exits his car, and then the courtyard is silent, save for the occasional “Viva Papa!”
And this is the most wonderful part of all, he takes his time walking around and greeting the faithful. Everyone there has a chance to speak to him. He listens. He asks questions. He prays with people. He jokes with people.
When the Audience ends, he takes a different way out. Again, greeting people, asking questions, praying with people, and joking with people.
No one would think twice about him walking straight to his chair and leaving immediately after the Audience — he’s older, there’s a pandemic going around, and it’s hot. He’s not running for office. He doesn’t need to greet nearly 500 people each Wednesday. But he does, and he does so in such a caring way.
The whole thing is calm, respectful, and beautiful.
If you are in Rome, or are able to get to Rome, you need to experience this new Papal Audience format. You’ll regret it if you don’t. The Papal Calendar, as always, is available on my website. I don’t plan to miss any of these, so I hope to see you there.