Most of my knowledge of how Vatican City works has come from Dan Brown novels, or more truthfully the movies that they spawned. I have been lucky enough in my life to travel. A few years ago I was in Rome. It was a Tuesday, and I found my way to Vatican City to look around. When in Rome…
On my way over I had heard that Tuesdays are typically the worst days to be able to see anything in Vatican City. Museums are closed or whatever. I went anyway and am glad I did. It just so happened that there was to be a mass that afternoon. There must have been thousands of people in attendance. What followed was an experience that is hard to articulate. There have been few times that I have ever been in a crowd so large that was so passionate. There was a murmur in the air consisting of a blend of a dozen different languages. People in the crowd were representatives of the Catholic World. I can only describe the experience as surreal.
From what I was able to gather, this event was unusual. The Pope was to give a special sermon to address issues surrounding the Catholic Church. In a way, it was fitting that the sermon was conducted in a language that I didn’t understand; I was standing in a reality that I really could not fully comprehend. In any other circumstance, I might be uncomfortable, being completely out of my element. But I stood there, content, bearing witness to something that few people in the world would ever witness. It seemed like a view into the “Old World” or into history.
As the world waits for a new Pope, I cannot help but remember my experience in Vatican City. I did what most tourist do, I took pictures. I took pictures of things that I had never seen before and might never see again. I took photographs of statues and fountains and people.
I was able to get a photo of the man everyone was there to see. Pope Benedict XVI rode past us only feet away before he spoke. I was standing in St. Peter’s Square, ten feet away from the leader of the Catholic Church.
The images that I captured that day remind me of that experience. What caused me to want to visit Vatican City on that day, why this historical sermon was held at exactly that time, and what the experience represented, are all still a mystery to me.
The Pope stepping down has not happened in 600 years. We are all witness to a historical event. Exactly why might always be a mystery to us. If my experience that Tuesday a few years ago has taught me anything, it is that somethings might not need to be explained.