Getting ready for the Beatification and worried about what to wear? Guest writer Mountain Butorac gives the low down on who, what, when, where and how to prepare you for John Paul II’s beatification Mass on May 1, 2011.
If you are planning to be at the beatification of Pope John Paul II, you already know this is a big deal. A camera is a must, of course, but you’ll also want mementos from the event. Be sure and bring all your religious souvenirs to be blessed by the Pope at the end of the Mass. My favorite for gifts is the pope bottle opener- the Popener- found on the internet and at souvenir stands. Since the Mass is outside, mix in some sunscreen or an umbrella. Bring some snacks– powerbars, peanuts, et cetera–remember: you will be at the service for a while and snacking is perfectly acceptable before the Mass.
I recommend you pack the night before, because…
When to arrive
Pope John Paul was extremely popular and millions of pilgrims came to Rome for his funeral in 2005. For Pope John Paul II’s 10:00 AM funeral Mass, I was in line by 4:00 AM. I sat close enough that I could see the faces of the dignitaries without binoculars. Anyone arriving after 7:00 AM was down Via della Conciliazione or a side street. Keep in mind Pope John Paul II is even more popular than ever, so get to St. Peter’s Square early.
Where to queue
Most people will do the obvious– line up in front of Saint Peter’s Square. That’s fine if you are one of the first to arrive, which you won’t be, because people will surely camp out. There are two side entrances that will be considerably less crowded. One on Via di Porta Angelica (which is where I will be) and another across the piazza where Via Paolo VI meets Via Tunica.
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Surprisingly, nuns! If the pope is a rock star, then the nuns are his biggest fans. They will do anything to see or be seen by the Holy Father. I’ve seen priests pushed over and umbrellas used as weapons against the innocent. No one is safe between a nun and the Pope! Elbows and habits will fly and once the Pope is out of sight, they will return to their quiet and innocent demeanor as if nothing ever happened.
How to stay safe
Violent crime is rare in Italy, so you are not going to be assaulted – unless you get in the way of a nun! But I can guarantee the pick-pockets will be dining well the evening of May 1. These petty thieves are not stupid, they know that with millions of tourists comes millions of clueless people with money. Add in the false sense of security that is Saint Peter’s Square, and they’ll have it made.
My advice is ridiculously simple, wear a money belt. Not the kind that goes around your neck, they can easily be cut and removed without you knowing. What you need is the kind that goes around your waist and under your clothes. Keep everything important in your money belt (passport, train and airline tickets, credit cards, big bills) – your mind will be at ease and you’ll be able to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.
Mountain Butorac organizes and leads Catholic pilgrimages and educational tours to Europe. He writes about his adventures at TheCatholicTraveler.com and has been successfully avoiding nuns in Rome since 1999.