31 March 2014

Can you have sobriety with a crowd of 5 million?

As the sun returns to the skies above Rome and, with it, the temperatures warm up nicely, a great many tourists are already crowding the streets of the Eternal City following the winter slow down (it was so nice not having to squeeze your way through the city!).

With so many people returning to Rome so soon, many of us who live and study here are already beginning to look with some trepidation (and some dread) to the week of the canonization of the Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. We greatly admire and revere these two holy Successors of Saint Peter, but the prospect of size of the throngs of pilgrims who will come to take part in the canonizations is a bit daunting.

Take, for example, Nicole Winfield's report today that Italian news reports are expecting somewhere between 5 and 7 million people to come for the event. Frankly, I'm expecting a minimum of 8 million people, for this simple reason: nearly all of Poland will come and half of Italy, and much of the rest of the world besides. All this for a city with a current population of 2.73 million inhabitants. Whichever figure is right, it's going to be a mess, though - hopefully - a joyful mess. (I, though, intend to stay inside as much as possible.)

Winfield reports that there will not be a great many spiritual activities surrounding the canonizations, as there was the beatification of Pope John Paul II, because, as the communications director for the Cardinal Vicar of Rome said, "What's important that happens is that there's a sobriety, to get to the essential." I'm not quite sure how you can have sobriety with even as few as 5 million people, but we'll see.

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