Everything is smaller in Rome. At least the parts of Rome that I have seen so far. I just finished taking a shower in something the size of a phone booth and had to increase the font size on this document. Even my Word program went all “When In Rome.”
Though the ceilings are high, the hotel room is small — the room would probably be larger if you laid it on its side. The bed is small. The TV is small (F.B.I agent Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. is interrogating someone in Italian.) The halls are narrow. The elevator is too small for more than two or three people.
The freeways are small. The streets are small. The cars are small (out of necessity). The doorways are small. The stores are small (and packed with goods). The café we had lunch at was small. The only thing large was my plate. But that might have been an illusion created by a piece of lasagna no larger than a deck of cards.
One thing larger than life is Pope Francis, whom we saw this morning. It’s winter here. Cold. It poured rain on and off all morning. Still, along with about 10,000 others, we huddled under umbrellas in St. Peter’s Square waiting for the Holy Father to arrive for his weekly Wednesday appearance.
Peter’s successor arrived in the Pope Mobile (which is also small) at 10:30 a.m. Thousands had arrived at 7:30 a.m. to push through a narrow gate and flood into the plaza. The rain and cold had no effect on anyone.
It was like a rock concert.
The place exploded as the Pope-Mobiled Pope circled the crowd. Every papal wave and every papal kiss of a baby elicited cheers in every possible language. The loudest were the Italians: “Papa! Papa Francesco! Papa! Papa!”
What followed was a short ceremony, maybe 45 minutes. The rain stopped as Francis took his seat and thankfully didn’t return. Papa read his address in Italian. Then, one by one, a series of priests translated his message into nearly a dozen different languages. The Pope blessed the objects many of us had brought (the one thing I didn’t forget — unlike my umbrella and hat). After we recited the Lord’s Prayer together in Latin, it was over.
Had I known beforehand that seeing the Pope would require sitting in a cold rain for three hours, I might not have gone. I know how terrible that makes me sound, and I was able to close my eyes and go to my “Safe Place” for most of that time, but we were expecting to see the Pope in the warm comfy confines of the Vatican. But those days are over.
Francis is so popular that the Wednesday gatherings now have to be held outside in the plaza, even in winter. According to our tour guide, before Francis they couldn’t give enough tickets away to even fill the Vatican hall. Today, St. Peter’s Square is packed with many times those who could fit in the hall. The new Pope is the hottest ticket in town — maybe in the world. Even in winter.
Was it worth sitting in a cold rain for three hours? Of course. Best of all, I now have a Crucifix blessed by Pope Francis himself. And if I do end up catching cold, I’m assuming it will be a small one.