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There was no question but that the highlight of our visit to Rome was the Papal General Audience on Wednesday, September 22.  Audiences are held outdoors in St. Peter's Square.  In inclement weather, the Paul VI Audience Hall is used.  Attendance is usually between 10,000 and 15,000 people.  Almost anyone can get a ticket to attend.  Getting a seat where you can actually see something without binoculars is a bit more of a problem.  With the kind help of a number of people, we were able to obtain Reparto Speciale (Special Section) tickets which put us as close to the Holy Father as you could get without being a Cardinal.  At the bottom of this page is a photo of the square showing where our seats were located.  We got out of bed a bit earlier than normal the morning of the audience and rushed the sisters at Maria Bambina on breakfast.  We crossed the street and entered the square at 8 a.m. for the 10:30 a.m. audience.  The Swiss guards and other security personnel at the gate very efficiently directed us to another Swiss guard near the center when they saw our red tickets.  That guard shunted us off up the pathway toward our seats.  Getting there early gave us a shot at good seats within the good section.  We got the best there was.



Pope Benedict XVI greeting member of the College of Cardinals following his homily on the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman in England the previous weekend.



Our usher was waiting to seat us in the Special Section.




Security and fire department personnel finishing their inspection of the premises.




The general seating area was beginning to fill up even before we got there.  The front row is always reserved for people with medical problems.




Across the way from us in the left hand section was a contingent of colorful people from some part of Africa.




This is our section.  We were mixed in with contingents from South Africa, Uzbekistan, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand as well as exotic places like California.




Our section again. Needless to say, everyone was in good spirits. 10,000 or more people that have traveled from all over the world to see someone are getting their wish.  During the Pope's homily, the New Zealander next to me and I took charge and opened up an area on the front row and brought everyone from the back rows with a camera forward for a few minutes each so that everyone got their picture. Many of them wanted pictures of themselves with the Holy Father in the background, so I got to handle a wide range of cameras for a few minutes while I was snapping away..




The Cardinals, Patriarchs, and other high Church officials were there early too.




Doing a little shop talk I presume.




Once these lads showed up and went into the parade rest position that they had to maintain for a couple of hours straight, we knew what was coming next.




The Holy Father arriving in the "Popemobile."




The ceremony began with a procession of Cardinals welcoming people to the audience in an assortment of languages.  They also introduced the larger groups attending from some countries.




The Pope delivered his homily in a variety of languages, discussing the life of Blessed John Henry Newman, his impact on the Church, and his recent beatification.




The Holy Father leading about 15,000 people in reciting the "Our Father" in Latin.




The Pontiff received about a dozen persons being specially honored for various reasons.




I would guess this eye injury had something to do with why he was being honored.




The Pope always makes the effort to come as close to as many of the congregation as he physically can.  After the ceremony, he boarded the Popemobile to travel through the crowd below.




First he made a tour over by our section.  People with crucifixes, rosaries, or other objects that they want blessed by the Pope are asked to hold them up.  A Chilean lady near me could barely hold her arms up because she had so many trinkets on it.  




Then my big moment came for a picture as the Popemobile brushed in front of me.  My camera didn't refocus quite fast enough though and all I got was a blurry picture.  You get the idea anyhow.




This was a picture I made later in the day from the convent where we stayed.  I marked it up to show where we were seated relative to the Papal throne.  The large section of seats is down the stairs from there.