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New York City, New York
March 15, 2003
Seeing the Pope was just amazing - it is hard to explain in words. There was so much love and everyone singing and smiling. He did his blessing in about six different languages (Italian, German, Spanish, Russian, English, and French). It was an experience that really made the trip and I am not even Catholic!
From journal Enjoying Rome
December 1, 2001
Getting tickets Contact your local Catholic church and ask the church secretary for their assistance in getting the tickets. The earlier the better!!! When the tickets are requested through the diocese offices, the group name will be sent to Rome so your group may be introduced. If you are not Catholic, call the church anyway! They will be happy for the opportunity to expose non-Catholics to the head of the Catholic church.
Seating Try to get seats either up in the first rows or along the aisle. The Pope enters from the back and rides in on a motorized cart, so everyone with an aisle seat is within touching distance (Yes, that was me!). People in the front rows were able to approach the Pope after the prayer service, providing the best opportunity to see the Pope.
Pope's Entrance The Pope processes slowly down the main aisle, surrounded by body guards. They will reach into the audience and bring babies and toddlers to the Pope for a special blessing and kiss. Two professional photographers take crowd shots during the procession, so take their cards and visit their shops to see the proofs. We were in pictures from both photographers.
Using a small notebook (my wife's journal!), we exchanged addresses with a couple who were sitting on the other side of the aisle. We would be in their pictures as they would be in our pictures as the Pope passed by. In order to be visible in professional photographs and other people's photographs, put the camera down for a few moments. In all the pictures, my forehead and chin are visible, with the rest of my face covered by a camera. My wife was overwhelmed and stopped taking pictures for a few minutes. She showed up beautifully in multiple pictures.
Pope's Message The ceremony started with a trio singing a hymn up on the stage. The daily reading was shared in multiple languages, Psalm 99 on our day. Then, by language, a bishop or cardinal introduces the groups to the Pope, and as they are announced, the groups stand and cheer. Some groups had bright handkerchiefs to wave and several groups had their own bands to play a musical tribute. The Pope then reads his message, in that language, to the audience. His message to the "English speaking people" was one of peace and forgiveness.
The Pope's messages last for about an hour. He then gives a papal blessing to all attendees. All items eligible for blessing (as defined by the Catholic church) were blessed. I had rosaries and medals blessed of which I plan to give as gifts to friends.
Afterwards, many people head over to the basilica or musuems. I suggest visiting these places on a different day to avoid the long lines and crowds.
From journal Pope John Paul II