It was a perfect Roman morning. The weather started cool and a bit cloudy, but soon the sun came out, the clouds departed, and the day warmed nicely. One could not have asked for a more picturesque day for our Holy Father's last Wednesday Audience.
I went to the audience with two Irish Dominicans. We left very early in the morning. We even had tickets, but didn't really ever need them.
Getting in was a bit rough. One of the x-ray machines had broken down. Of course, as I found out later, there were other entrances with no x-ray machines where people were being allowed it. At one point at our entrance, it became clear that only part of the mob (Italian's don't line up, they mob), was moving. It began a rather long back-and-forth between the Italians who felt slighted and the volunteer workers who didn't really care to do anything about it. Wonderfully Roman.
Once we got in, a bit later than we had hoped, we decided to sit towards the back, because that way we could get a position right by the lane where the Popemobile would go through. it ended up being a good choice. While we were not close to where the Pope gave his address, we were right by where the Popemobile drove.
The crowd was a lot of fun. It seemed to me mostly a younger crowd--lots of young people from all over the world: Italians (of course), American, Spanish, French, Mexican, Slovakian, Polish, etc., etc. They crowd was in a good mood, with many singing or playing instruments before the audience. But once the audience began, they were incredibly respectful. Everyone sat down for the prayers and listened. At points the crowd was almost silent. All those people and such quiet. That's the effect of this Pope, he casts an aura of reverential silence.
I was struck to by the unity of the crowd. That came to the fore most
especially in the singing of the Lord's Prayer. We had listened to the
Scriptures and the Pope's message in half a dozen languages. But at the
end, we sang the Our Father in Latin. Not everyone sang, of course, but I was surprised by the number who did. It was wonderfully universal, wonderfully catholic.
I followed what I could of the audience in Italian. (It is already available onlline) A number of lines struck me, but more than anything else probably was when he said, "the Barque of the Church is not mine, it's not our's, it's His and he will not let it flounder." Bl. Pope John Paul II made his Papacy very personal, which was wonderful. Anytime you were at an event with JPII, you felt as if he were talking to you. Benedict XVI reminds us that the Church transcends any single human person, even the Pope. We need the Pope, but what we need is the Petrine ministry, the office. It's not the men, but the Spirit working through them, that makes the Church.
A very memorable day, made all the more so by having lots of pictures. Here are my pictures from the Audience today, Pope Benedict XVI's last: