As I walked through the piazza outside the Pantheon, I was very surprised at how few people there were (it was not until much later in the day I realized it was closed in honor of Italy's Liberation Day) and wondered where all of the tourists. Since it was about 10:30 a.m., it seemed unlikely they were all still in bed (though not entirely impossible).
On my way to the Vatican Basilica, I was stopped by a stop light at the Tiber River. Like most Italians (and everyone else who visits Rome except for the Germans), I refuse to have my life ordered by a computerized box and, since no vehicles were to be seen from either direction, I stepped into the street and began to cross over to the other side. As I did so, a German began to scold me as he pointed to the clear "don't walk" sign indicated on the opposite side. He clearly did not realize where he was (the Germans, as a general rule, having a very hard time ignoring unnecessary crossing signals and are often visibly uncomfortable by those who ignore them). I simply waved to him and continued on my way.
When I entered St. Peter's Square I was very surprised to see how open it was:
It certain sections, however, it was quite filled with people:
Without much difficulty I made my way in front of the basilica to take a few pictures of the tapestries:
|Because of the crowds, it was all but impossible to stand still long enough for a straight shot.|
I'm especially pleased that the two Pontiffs are shown wearing the same items of papal vesture and have been baffled why so much of the Internet - both news sites and blogs - show one in cassock, mozetta, and stole and the other in a chasuble, something like this (though not the usual juxtaposition):
Showing them in matching attire makes more sense and is more visually pleasing.
After I left the piazza and was half-way down the road that leads to St. Peter's, an older Italian man who was approaching the basilica stopped me to ask if it was, in fact, St. Peter's. His question caught me by surprise; I thought everyone knew what the Basilica of St. Peter looks like, especially an Italian in Rome!
In the days following the announcement of the tomorrow's dual canonization, some feared that canonizing both Popes at the same ceremony would either be too large of an event or take something away from the canonization of Blessed Pope John XXIII, or both.
While the first concern remains yet to be seen, the second concern seems quite right. In looking at banners, buttons, and pins, and looking at various souvenirs in the shops, it seems that John Paul II has completely overshadowed John XXIII. As just one example, one shop sold four of different holy cards of John Paul II, but none of John XXIII. Either the pilgrims have already bought up nearly everything relating to the Good Pope, or most are only vaguely aware that he is, as it were, "that other guy."
Since Bishop Paprocki is in Rome for the canonizations, I joined him and my successor as his secretary for lunch, together with our seminarian at the North American College and a few of the Bishop's friends for Chicago. I spent the afternoon with the seminarian and the priest and visit one of the chapels at the NAC, where I happily noticed this window:
Every day with Father Damien is a good day.
In the evening I visited with an old friend from Quincy who now serves as the Executive Director of Communications and Planning for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, a good friend whom I don't get to see often enough.
All in all, it was a very good day as, I hope, today will be as well despite the increasing crowds and threat of rain.