We've been here since Monday, staying at the Guest House of a religious order of 'teaching' monks - a beautiful oasis of tranquility just a ten minute ride from the city centre by Metro.
If you think London is busy, frantic and full of tourists - try Rome!
The driving is a sort of 'sport' in itself - to a Brit like me it just looks like organised chaos with lots of horns being blown with scooters everywhere.
Having visited the Colosseum and Roman Forum yesterday it was 'Pope' day today. We travelled in early with a Canadian Catholic we've got to know back at the Guest House. We joined the huge crowd in front of St Peter's and waited for the arrival of the 'Papa'. When he appeared on screen, and then in the distance on his 'pope-mobile' everyone got on their chairs to take photos and cheer (so I joined in!). There was just a wave of loving enthusiasm and respect that seem to ripple through the crowd - this was 'their pastor' and they were greeting him and he them. The Pope seemed to relish this time moving through the vast crowd regularly stopping to kiss and bless babies - and that touched me really. A world leader, technically a 'Sovereign', taking time to bless children - it seemed to me to be a deeply 'human' yet 'godly' act of love and compassion.
Once he'd been round the square a few times he ascended the podium with bishops on his left and lay guests on his right. It was fascinating that this 'formal' time in the General Audience started with scripture as the reading for the day was delivered by five priests each in a different language. The Pope then spoke for about 15mins reflecting on his recent visit to Israel and his longing for peace and reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians. Once again I was touched that this world leader was speaking about such vital issues as these - regularly going 'off script' and becoming animated.
The event came to an end with the singing of the Lord's Prayer in Latin and the Pope's blessing. Throughout all this a crowd, which had been in carnival mood at the beginning, sat in respectful silence as if in church. There was such an obvious 'bond' between the thousands in St Peter's Square and this smiling Pontifex Maximus (Pope) on the podium.
As he spoke a pigeon landed in front of him - gloriously unaware of security and church ceremony. I thought it a lovely picture - maybe of the Holy Spirit, often likened to a bird, coming and blessing this man's words as he blessed us with God's love.
I know why I'm not a Roman Catholic (and this isn't the Blog to discuss that!) - but today, in this truly international arena I think I saw a servant of God show and speak of nothing but love, compassion, reconciliation and peace - and that was something beautiful to have been part of.
With best wishes from sunny,crazy, inspirational Rome!,