Who is the Pope?
Pope Francis is the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and has made waves since he first took up the position in 2013. Née Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he was born in Argentina and is the first Pope from the Americas and the Southern Hemisphere, as well as the first Jesuit Pope. He chose Francis as his papal name to honor Saint Francis of Assisi, a religious figure who is venerated for living a peaceful and humble life of poverty. Indeed, Pope Francis himself favors humility and simplicity, expressing his desire for ‘a poor church for the poor’, a break from previous popes who have embraced a more ostentatious life during their leadership.
Pope Francis’s concern for the poor and marginalized, his commitment to interfaith dialogue, and emphasis on God’s mercy have made him a uniting figure and he is even credited with helping to re-establish diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. He is known for his warm spirit, sense of humor and embraces all types of communication (even social media). He presides over an active calendar of events each year; here is where and when to find him in Rome.
The Papal Audience
Pope Francis holds a Papal Audience in St. Peter’s Square every Wednesday morning at 10:30am that normally runs 60-90 minutes. The Pope greets pilgrims in his audience in every major language and then gives a series of small teachings and readings in Italian. At the end of the audience, the Pope prays with those in attendance and gives the Apostolic Blessing which extends to you, your loved ones and any devotional items you have with you.
Tickets for the audience are always free but you’ll need to get them in advance and you may face long lines during peak seasons. The easiest way to pick up your ticket is to stop by the Swiss Guards at the Bronze Doors (located just after security at St Peter’s Basilica) on the Tueday before the audience between the hours of 15:00-17:00 (summer), 15:00-18:00 (winter) or Wednesday morning before the mass from 7:00-10:00. If you prefer to reserve your ticket online to ensure your spot, or need more than 10 tickets, you can fill out a form online here.
The Vatican issues more tickets than seats for the Papal Audience so its best to arrive early to get a good spot: aim to be in line around 6:30 or 7:00 before the doors officially open at 8:00. You must dress appropriately to attend a Papal audience – shoulders and knees must be covered for men, women and children – and you will need to go through a security screening so don’t bring pocket knives, corkscrews or scissors with you. In case of particularly inclement weather, the Papal Audience is held indoors within the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall.
Another opportunity to see the Pope is at his weekly Angelus on Sunday mornings. Each Sunday at 12:00 noon, Pope Francis speaks from the window of the papal apartments to a crowd gathered within St. Peter’s Square and extends his Apostolic Blessing. This is a more informal gathering and you will not need to reserve tickets to hear the Pope, but arrive early if you want to be close to the window.
For more information on Pope Francis’s upcoming events, please consult the Papal Audience website.