We were bussed to the back of the Vatican complex, entered by a small door, and then went up three flights of stairs. I, as I imagine all other first timers, had no idea what to expect from an audience with a Pope. Once on the third floor, we wove around through hallways, until we came to the one that led to the Salle Clementia— the audience hall for the day. Here are the shots of the some hundred people who were invited to this audience.
Once we were in the rather small room or salle, we had to find a seat, and fortunately our friend Bernardo found us seats on the second row. We had no idea what this meant at the moment, but we would in due course. We were directly behind the cardinals and bishops of course sat in gold chairs on the front row or beside the chair of the Pope in the front of the room.
When the Pope came in he came in quickly and was all smiles though he looked tired. Everyone had stood up and everything was a blur. There was a great air of excitement in the room. The Pope read a proclamation about the conference and the award to Richard Burridge and a Catholic theologian from Germany, and then the cardinals and bishops were ushered up front to greet the Pope.
The Pope agreed to greet a few more people, those on the second row (not the twenty rows behind us), and suddenly Yuliya and I found ourselves lining to greet the Pope. But what do you say to the Pope– ” I simply mumbled something like “thank you Holy Father for greeting us”. But something special happened. The Pope really took to Yuliya… and she both shook his hand and kissed the ring, and knelt before him….here are a few of the Vatican official shots, which I will replace when they send me my copies..
The dinner was in the hall of statues, and here’s the one which stared at me all night…
Frankly I didn’t care if all the statues suddenly came to life and ate dinner with us. It couldn’t have been more magical than what had already happened on a day I will never forget.