Three weeks ago, as I planned my vacation, I toyed whether to visit the Vatican on a Monday or a Wednesday. And then I chose Wednesday, because that’s the day that the Pope gives an audience.
I learnt that though the Papal audience was free, one had to reserve tickets for seats in the enclosure in St Peter’s square by a request to the Vatican. I filled the form and realized that the only way I could ask for reservations was by fax. The Vatican didn’t trust emails, I guess! Since Sevagram or Wardha didn’t have any place which could send an overseas fax, I had almost given up. It then occurred to me that I could send that fax via a phone app and just did that. But then I heard nothing from them.
On Tuesday afternoon, I walked up to the Vatican and tried explaining to the Italian policemen there that I had asked for a reservation but I hadn’t got any reply. Between my English and their Italian, the message got lost in translation and I was very aggressively told to disappear. I don’t know what made me do it, but I pulled out my phone, searched the fax I’d sent and showed it to that rude policeman. One look at it, and he allowed me to cross the Bronze Door. There I was greeted by a jazzily dressed Swiss guard, who saluted me and directed me indoors. Standing in a queue for the tickets my heart underwent several palpitations as the first three pages beginning with A showed only Andreas or Andrews but no Anshu. And then suddenly on page 4, I spotted my name! Relief! I got two reservations from a very polite gentleman in an envelope which had my name printed across. Can’t explain how triumphant I felt!
This morning we went for the Papal audience. Several pretty brides in the audience dressed in beautiful gowns waited for the Pope’s blessings. On his arrival Pope Francis went around the gathering in his popemobile twice- in almost pop star style. The crowd yelled “Papa! Papa!” and was in raptures, while he stopped midway to shake hands or bless babies.
I read somewhere that this Pope has cut out a lot of formality and even dispensed with the bulletproof glass saying that he won’t use a ‘sardine-can’ popemobile. His actual sermon was short and crisp. However the message was translated into a number of languages, including English, Italian, French, Polish, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese and Latin, by the cardinals present there. When the names of the groups which had come to the Vatican from different places was read out, the crowd yelled in joy and waved flags. The entire exercise took slightly more than an hour. The ceremony is not very solemn, but has a rather festive feel to it.
I just felt that the message of peace is the same. All roads lead to it.