04 Sept. [I will format/ re-edit this sometime soon – this is a rough post]
Today must be one of the happiest and most privileged days of my life! I was not just at St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, but also was privileged to attend the Pope’s Audience.
After a short break/ vacation at his own guest house, the Holy Father has started his public appearance on Monday, 02 September 2013. In fact this was the first audience he was giving after his holidays. And how lucky I was!
By last evening the Via was closed traffic to accommodate the pilgrims from all over the world. Probably, given that this audience was after a long time, and the Pope’s charm, the authorities had taken enough precautions, made arrangements for more crowds. And they did come! Probably over two lakh people!
When I reached St Peter’s Square at 7.10am, there were over 70-80,000 people already waiting! By 9.30 am, the Square was filled to its capacity! Thousands of them standing in the scorching sun, too! The Holy Father appeared at 10.00 am – and there was a sort of delirium! Excitement! Young and the old, children and youth! Well, who said the young don’t value their religion!? The thousands and thousands prove it otherwise!
The Pope started moving slowly towards the people (in his open van), the van moving criss-cross: once to his right, once to his left – so that he could meet and greet people on both the sides. Those who had kids and the sick, they brought them forward; and he stopped to kiss them on their foreheads, or hold their hands and to bless them.
I met him! I met him! Whaavvvv… what a feeling! I was fortunate to have secured a chair beside his route! He came very close to me – almost a foot or so! For a while I stopped clicking, and jumped in excitement! ‘Papa!!!’ Well, everyone was in ecstasy!
The Holy Father went all around the Square to greet the people. Nearly two round!
Well, that was enough for me; was not interested in a personal meeting! Other than clicking and being ecstatic, what else could I do if I met him one-on-one!?
After 30-minutes of meeting-and-greeting the people, His Holiness started with The Sign of the Cross. Then there was a Bible Reading, in all the major languages of the people gathered there (those who had announced their arrival officially). It was followed by The Pope’s message: he spoke in Italian. He spoke about his visit to Brazil, for the World Youth Congress in August. Welcome, Celebration, and Mission, were the three terms constantly recurring in his speech, well his conversation with the people! Though he had a prepared script in his hands, he kept speaking impromptu, often! He spoke with people, he asked for their opinion, he asked questions! Such an informal speech! I loved it; so did everybody gather there!
He spoke for about ten minutes, and then the cardinals/ priests assigned gave a short summary of his speech in those major languages, with the language-group’s best wishes!
Oh, what a lovely meeting!