Miracles do happen, and after what seems like WEEKS of cold, rainy weather in Rome (I exaggerate, but barely!), this morning dawned sunny, almost cloudless, and almost warm for the inauguration of Pope Francis. I woke up with a ferocious headache, popped some Tylenol, hoped for the best, and joined hundreds of well-wishers flocking to St. Peter’s. How often will I see a pope inaugurated? How could I miss that!
Because I left a bit late and because I hate crowds, I decided to get as close as comfortable to St. Peter’s and soak up the pageantry. I lucked out, because Vatican City had set up several huge TV screens with a terrific and loud sound system along Via della Concilazione, so I stopped in front of one about a block from St. Peter’s Square. Even though I could only sort of see the events firsthand (actually I could see, but everyone was the size of ants), I had a perfect view of the events on the big screen just on the other side of the barrier from me.
I hope you watched the ceremony or part of it on TV, because it was colorful, majestic, heartwarming, and everything you want from a celebration. The new pope has the best smile, doesn’t he? One boy who sang part of the service knocked my socks off with the beauty of his voice. If only more women had been able to take part—as speakers, cardinals, or pope’s assistants. I know that one or two women participated; I just always want more. Someday, please!
In addition to the hordes of people watching the inauguration at St. Peter’s Square, law enforcement personnel, safety patrols, Croce Rossa (Red Cross) staff, and other health, safety, and security folks, many in neon uniforms, mobbed the walkways that were blocked off to the rest of us. I even saw a security force from Malta. My orange-and-maroon-garbed trash folks were out in force as well, as I expected them to be. Police boats cruised up and down the Tevere, and police helicopters circled overhead. The helicopters stopped during the ceremony, which was polite, since they make so much noise.
This kind of event must be a security nightmare for the Vatican and Rome, with hundreds of dignitaries to protect, a gregarious pope who wanders into the crowds and prefers to ride buses, and elderly and emotional faithful overcome at witnessing such an august occasion, not to mention pickpockets and other petty criminals. My hat is off to the safety and security people, because everything seemed to go well, and they appeared to be in high spirits.
Many of the dignitaries attending the inauguration stayed in the Via Veneto area, according to one account that I read, so Via Veneto, Corso Vittorio Emanuelle (the busy street between Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona), and a few other major city streets were closed to automobiles. I wandered up to Corso Vittorio Emanuelle after I left Vatican City, and, sure enough, it was closed. I worried about delivery people, but I noticed that the police guarding the blockades allowed delivery people through. It’s a good thing, because the shops, restaurants, and bars in Centro Storico are so small that they need deliveries every day. It was so odd to see no traffic on Corso Vittorio Emanuelle. It was serene and beautiful.
P.S., At the grocery store on my way home, I asked the clerk stocking the beer section if he could recommend a good beer. He grunted that he couldn’t. A tiny old man standing next to me pointed to an Italian beer and said (in Italian), “This one’s good” or something close to that. I thanked him, picked up a couple of bottles, and continued shopping. The tiny man was waiting for me at the checkout counter. I thanked him again, and he offered to let me use his Despar (the supermarket at which I was shopping) affinity card so I could get a discount on the beer. I thanked him and dug my Despar card out of my purse to show him. He beamed! Then he cut in line in front of me, paid for his few groceries, and left with a wave goodbye. I love Rome!