Content by Sam Whitaker –
On what most study abroad students would consider a routine weekend sightseeing trip to Rome, we saw it all. After spending three days touring ancient Roman ruins, Saturday night had come, we were exhausted, and everyone was ready to go home. We had a two o’clock flight home the following day and planned to take our time getting up and making the hour-long schlep from downtown Rome to the airport.
While out to dinner that night, our server asked us about how our trip was going, making that kind of nonsense small talk you hope you don’t encounter when you’re starving in an authentic Italian restaurant. He noted that the Pope was going to be in town the next day to give mass and afterwards, at noon, he would be addressing the people of the Vatican Plaza from his apartment window (as seen on TV the last Sunday of every month). My fellow travelers were very excited to go. I’m not religious, so I had little interest, but I decided to get up early with them and push the envelope to see one of the most influential people in the world, all while taking the risk of missing our flight home.
When Pope Benedict XVI came out of the window (at noon as promised), arms in the air, the 15,000 people in the Vatican plaza erupted in cheer and applause. It wasn’t until he began speaking that I realized his sheer influence over these people. He delivered his Sunday blessing in Latin, and the place was in complete silence for the entire address, mostly heads bowed.
We made our flight home and the rush and risk was all worth it. The whole trip exceeded expectations, including the food at that Italian restaurant!