Tens of thousands filled St. Peter’s Square and even the streets outside the gates on Wednesday morning for the weekly public “audience” of Pope Francis.
We got there early, as advised, and were able to get front row seats. The Pope, who was greeted by millions in the US a few weeks ago, made an early entrance in a Mercedes Popemobile, a little fancier than the Fiat he rode in while in the US. Surrounded by heavy security, he drove within 10 feet of our seats and then all around St. Peter’s Square.
Once finished, he disembarked in front us and walked up the steep and rough stairs of St. Peter’s to a stage shared by numerous cardinals, some of whom are in Rome for a Synod of Bishops. That also coincided with the canonization of four new saints last Sunday.
Various cardinals made introductory remarks to the Pope and the audience, including mentioning the many groups and pilgrims from various countries. The cardinals represented all of the major languages. The Pope also delivered an address on the importance of family.
After that, the very relaxed Pope greeted each of the cardinals and then came down in front of us again, broadly smiling, and spoke with, blessed, greeted and kissed a number of handicapped individuals.