Britnee JohnstonTWO POPES IN ONE SQUARE Britnee Johnston October 14 Italy, Travel What do you get when two Popes enter a bar, I mean…St. Peter’s Square? I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure out the punchline. If you have a good one, comment below. Or read other funny Pope-related jokes hosted by Pope Francis at www.jokewiththepope.com. Jokes aside, it’s no joke that Mark and I had a rare opportunity when we were in Rome to be in the presence of both Pope Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. It was supposed to be Sunday Mass with the Pope, but it turned out that it was a special three-hour program honoring the elderly and grandparents. As part of the program, world-renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performed his popular “Time to Say Goodbye.” It was more than we could’ve asked for, especially when it was such a last-minute decision to go to St. Peter’s Square that morning. It was just the day prior to Sunday Mass that we looked online to see if the Pope was in town to hold it. Usually I’m a planner and would’ve found out way ahead of time, but by this time in the trip I was getting tired of planning and started to do more on a whim. An online news report mentioned the special program, but said nothing about the cost or if it was part of the usual free Sunday Mass. Taking our chances, we put our alarms for 6 a.m. the next day to line up for the event. By the time we arrived in the dark, early morning, lines were already forming all around the square. Unfortunately, I saw some people in line holding their tickets. Worried because we didn’t have any, we tapped the shoulder of a woman in front of us and asked how she got her tickets. She responded in another language, not knowing English. We’re still glad we asked though because another woman next to us overheard the conversation and started talking to us. Her name was Laura from Germany, and lucky us, she knew English. She was all alone and said that her two roommates were supposed to be there with her, but had partied too much the night prior and slept in. This meant she had two extra tickets! She kindly offered them to us and we gladly accepted. What luck…or more like what a blessing! When the square finally opened the crowds poured in and we ran with Laura to get to the front middle section to claim the best seats. We scored second row seats! We didn’t have to throw any elbows for them either. Free tickets and the best seats…we didn’t think it could get any better. Once the program began, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI entered the square and was honored as the Vatican’s grandparent along with the 40,000 other elderly people in the audience. It was a rare appearance as it was just the third time he’s been in a public event since resigning in 2013. Then Andrea Bocelli beautifully sang his popular hit “Time to Say Goodbye” as Pope Francis entered the square. The program continued with performances from local musicians, a children’s choir and testimonies given from elderly members who traveled around the world to attend the event. At the end of Mass, Pope Francis hopped into his Popemobile and rode through the crowd, waving and smiling as security guards surrounded him. Being just two rows away from the front car path, it felt as if he was personally giving us a wave hello. We’re not Catholic, but it was probably one of our favorite spiritual experiences we had during our trip. It’s definitely a Sunday morning that I’ll never forget as we surprisingly prayed with two Popes. I’m an obsessive planner at heart, but I’m starting to realize that many of the rewarding experiences we’ve had, are the things we can’t plan. It’s ok to let go and let life run its course and be pleasantly surprised by what it brings us.