Rome, Italy, 7.30 am.
Update from our reader:
I saw that you posted my picture. I’m really quite floored – thank you! Today at Vatican City was amazing. A little background: I’m not Catholic, and were it not for Pope Francis, not only would I have not been interested in seeing the Pope, I would have made a point of avoiding any celebration of him. My opinion of the Catholic Church was, given its history of sexual and financial abuse, pretty much rock bottom, but Pope Francis has changed that. (BTW, I made a point of reading your Deep Dish on Francis before we left on this trip.)
Our accidental encounter today with the Pope:
We thought we had tickets for the Vatican Museum, but my husband had the day wrong. So we got into line for what we thought was a tour for St. Peter’s Basilica … turns out we were in line for the Papal Mass in the outside seating area, so we stayed and watched the mass from nearly front row seats on a big screen just outside the Basilica (my first Mass). Afterwards, we were in a great location to see Pope Francis give his New Year’s address live on his balcony (our binoculars helped). Needless to say, the crowd was huge and amazing. Wonderful experience, especially since none of it was planned.
My family is a funny group religion-wise: my husband is agnostic, my daughter evangelical, my son an atheist, and me … I come under that fuzzy heading of “spiritual and seeking” but turned-off by organized religion (actually, turned off by Christianism, to use your term). I had a lot of thoughts today about religion and its purpose in people’s lives which I hope to jot down when I return from vacation. Not sure it would be anything significantly new, but I may send it your way. Why? It was your Time article “When Not Seeing is Believing” that brought you into my life almost 8 years ago, and you have been an almost daily presence since.