We started the day with a public pope audience. Every Wednesday the pope appears in front of a packed auditorium for passages, hymns and blessings. We left the hotel at 9am for the 10:30am appearance. Once we arrived at St Peter’s Square, we realized why we left so early. There was already a huge line waiting at the security check to get in. There were groups from many different countries present including St Thomas, St Kate’s and St Olaf from Minnesota. We were seated in the front section of the auditorium so we had fairly good seats when we got in. Closer to the starting time they opened the front section to people sitting in the back section. At this point there was a mad dash of people trying to find the best possible seats in the front. These people were on a mission for a close spot, they had such intensity in their faces. You could tell how important this event was to the people there. Once the pope came out the auditorium erupted into cheers, screams and camera flashes. He reached the middle of the stage and called for silence. We then heard passages from the book of Luke in several different languages including English, Italian and Spanish. Then, different groups present in the audience were acknowledged and cheered to receive a non-verbal acknowledgement from the pope himself. The appearance ended with a mass blessing and a hymn led by the pope, sung in Latin.
After this we grabbed some lunch then met again to go into the Scavi so see ancient excavated tombs below Vatican City. We saw where St Peter’s remains were buried along with the sarcophaguses of different popes. We also saw the Vatican necropolis which showed where bodies were cremated and what a family mausoleum looked like for the rich in ancient times.
After the Scavi we had a class session followed by dinner. A few went to get a doner kebab, which are fantastic. A large group tried a Chinese restaurant, which was a good change of pace. We then settled into the hotel for good conversation and wine with our instructors. Our dean, Dr. Weinkauf, came to Rome to hang out with us for a few days, but it was his last night so we spent it enjoying each others’ company