This morning, Mike asked if I'd like to accompany them to the Audience. I was planning on going next week for sure, when some other friends from the States will be in town, but hey, see the Pope twice, sure, why not?
We met at the Obelisk in Pz. S. Pietro around 8 on a cold and drizzly morning. Much to my delight, Mike had gotten me a ticket in the front section, the "Reparto Speciale" as well! As the rain became stronger, we joined a long queue that snaked its way to the Basilica. Once inside, we were finally told that the Basilical is the "overflow" area (the Pope's audiences routinely draw crowds too big for the Paul VI Audience Hall), where he'll only come and speak for a few minutes, before going to the "real" audience in the Paul VI Hall. So we dash back across the Piazza, join another line for security, and get inside, and get seats oh some 6 or 7 rows from the stage!
A few of my former Paulist seminarian brothers and colleagues were also nearby (they're in town on a special pilgrimage to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the society).
There was still some time for the audience, so I ended up having a great conversation with Dr. Hahn, ranging from Hinduism to the new evangelization and missiology. What a delight and a privilege!
Papal Audiences never grow old -- I recall the first that I went to, with Pope John Paul in 2002. This is actually the first one I've been to with Pope Benedict. That electric current that fills air when he walked onto stage, the thunderous applause, the shouts, the greetings of various pilgrim groups from around the world, all serve, to my mind, to manifest in a unique way the bonds of communion within the Church, with Peter as the visible center.
The catechesis was on St. Leo the great.
Here's a YouTube video of clips from the audience. The entire part that he spoke in English (with a summary of the catechesis) is in the middle, following the begininng of the catechesis in Italian (which is about 40-50s long. The video is a bit shaky, since I was zooming in, and I've published this at a lower bandwidth to make for a faster upload.
CHE VIVA IL PAPA!