Because the weather was glorious on Sunday in Rome, we decided to explore the Prati neighborhood to the north of the Vatican. We left home around 11:30, and as we walked near St. Peter’s, we saw people rushing up the street, so we joined them. We had forgotten that on Sunday at noon the pope does his weekly television Angelus from the Papal Apartment. We arrived at St. Peter’s Square just as Pope Francis popped into view in a window high above the square. The large crowd filling the piazza waved flags and roared when he appeared. He spoke in Italian, of course, which is one of the things that Italians love so much about him, and we could understand a few words, including the word medicina. My favorite part was while the pope spoke, a fearless white pigeon strutted back and forth on the roof above him.
We obviously stood in the wrong spot (or aren’t faithful enough), because 20,000 samples of the medicina, called Misericordin, with a rosary and instructions for use were handed out to the faithful. According to the blog The View from Rome, Misericordin “is a spiritual medicine . . . good for the heart, the soul, your whole life. The pope explained [that the medicine should be taken] ‘when we want to convert sinners’ or ‘need help in taking a difficult decision,’ or we need to resist temptation or ask for mercy for a dying person.’ The leaflet explains that there are no side-effects and that the rosary is ‘compatible with other prayers.’”
We’ve seen the pope in action many times: Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter’s in 2011, Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s in 2012, and Pope Francis’s inauguration in 2013, and many months ago I saw a Wednesday Papal Audience from the back of the piazza (I had to watch it on TV because I was so far away). It’s always fun to see the pope, especially this pope, who seems so genuine, humble, and kind. So our Sunday walk suddenly turned into a magical moment. Lucky us!