With my sister living in Rome and the recent passing of the Pope, I thought it would be interesting to publish her thoughts on life in rome in recent days.
So what's the news from over here....
Hmmm. Well, I don't really know. These last few days I haven't tried to go near the Vatican. I had hoped to try to go and view the body, but the number of people who have descended on the city made that impossible. Some people waited 15 hours to see the pope. That's the worst I heard. But the last day it was around 12 hours on average that people had to wait. If I had had any idea, I would have tried to go on Monday night, but I didn't understand all the scheduling of everything, so I figured, Wed or Thurs would be fine. Ah well. At least the weather has stayed clear and sunny during the days, and clear and cool to cold at night. That was pretty lucky for all the people standing out there waiting.
I did go to St Peter's on Friday night for a little bit, to experience the energy. It was very quiet and peaceful. People were just standing and sitting around, talking or quiet. Respectful, but normal. I went back with some friends on Saturday night after he died and we stood around for a while. I actually was interviewed with 4 others by BBC radio. Reporters were everywhere grabbing people to interview. One girl was from Holland. She "just happened" to call her brother while a Dutch news team was nearby and spoke in Dutch so they grabbed her and then the brother, who was also there (they were trying to meet). There were about 350 news agencies and companies set up near the Vatican, many right by Castel St. Angelo. It seems rather insane. Someone told me that there's an Irish news channel that is doing all of its news from here in Rome, the Irish news and everything.
We returned for the mass on Sunday. It was really nice, with music/singing and all the cardinals, etc. I'm glad I went, esp as I won't even try to go to the funeral. There were A LOT of people there on Sunday, but it was not too many, it was manageable. Only after communion did people start coming forward and crowding us, as we were close to the front/platform with the altar, and there was nowhere for them to go, yet people from behind kept pushing forward. We left as soon as the mass was over. Many people stayed, but still it was very slow going to get out. I can't imagine what would happen in the event of an emergency. So many people would die, I have no doubt. It turns out that one of my friends here, who's a priest, kind of crashed the mass (he got into St. Peter's somehow and as he happened to have his white robes with him, he threw them on and literally ran to join the priests heading out of the basilica to sit on the platform behind all the cardinals) and ended up being pulled into service giving out communion right near the platform/dias. His parents in New Zealand had a shock and I think a very proud moment when they saw him on CNN in a clear, long shot with Cardinal Sordano and the others who were presiding over the mass. They had priests come out into the crowd all over the Square to give out communion.
As the thousands upon thousands of people have been arriving, Rome has tried to be prepared... They have added so many buses, esp. on the lines running from the main train stations to the Vatican. People have been handing out water all over town. They Citizen's Protection group has been sending out text messages to cell phones with directions. That's pretty cool. They slowly closed off more and more of the area around the Vatican to any traffic. Tonight, they have closed the city to all unnecessary traffic. They have brought in anti-aircraft missiles and they have a no-fly zone within forty miles. I can't believe there are so many heads-of-state here. That scares me a little. I do think it's cool that Clinton came and Daddy Bush too, the younger I could care less about. It would be cool to attend the funeral if you could do it from a cushy look-out spot so that you didn't have to deal with the crowds... but you had a great view.... I'll keep hoping I get that invitation. Hee, hee. They estimated about 2 million people would come, but I've heard that it's even more than that. The city is full of pilgrims, mourners and political and religious leaders. You see little motorcade, after medium-sized motorcade go by. My friend said that she saw what had to be the President go by, with car after car after limo with flags after van after car after another van after car.... She couldn't believe how long it was.
I think people have been getting a bit desperate and tempers have been rising. One bar/restaurant next to the end of the line of people waiting to see the Pope (at about the 10 hour point) finally stopped letting people use their bathroom because due to the huge number of people using it, the toilet's screws had ripped out of the floor. They actually had to hire a bodyguard to stop people.
I can't imagine what tomorrow will be like. One of my friends planned to go to St. Peter's tonight and camp out to try to get a good spot in the square for the funeral. I might walk over to Circo Massimo, where they have an impromptu camp-ground and I've heard a huge screen where they will show the funeral. I think it would be cool to be with other people rather than alone in my apartment. I'll see. It would be interesting to walk over near the Vatican to feel the energy. I might do that, too.
I wonder how long people will stay. They are only going to start conclave to decide on a new pope on the 18th... I'm sure many people won't and can't stay that long. It'll be really weird if they are here that whole time. I suppose I am lucky to live in the Jewish quarter... It's been pretty quiet here... hee, hee, although it's right in the center of most of the tourist sights and only about 2 miles from St. Peter's.
Anyway, that's the scoop as I know it.