It might seem strange that my first post on Florence is about the Pope. I could of written about Il Duomo, Galleria degli Uffizi, Galleria dell’ Academia or Ponte Vecchio, but nope. I chose to write about the Pope. Why? Because it’s the fucking Pope, man. I’m not Catholic. Hell, I’m not even religious (is it obvious?). But with over 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, this dude’s a pretty big deal. And since he was the reason I couldn’t visit Il Duomo or move freely through the streets of Florence, I thought I might as well see what all the fuss is about.
Now, when I arrived I had no idea that the Pope was in town – the Papal schedule is not something I tend to google on a regular basis. That meant that when I saw the thousands of people lining the streets, my first thoughts were closer to ‘must be Bieber’ than ‘must be the Pope’. Once I rounded the corner, it clicked – in all it’s greenhouse-on-wheels majesty, there it was – the Popemobile. Yes, I too was so happy when I realised that was the real name for his little car. Anyway… It turns out it was the Fifth National Convention of the Catholic Church (thank you google). And here I was, stuck in the middle of the crowd waiting for the big man himself to emerge. Why I decided to wait, I’m not really sure. But I’m glad I did, because it was absolutely fascinating.
While the Pope was inside giving his address, the crowd grew bigger and bigger. There were thousands upon thousands of people – waving Vatican City flags, holding crucifixes and even holding miniature dolls of the Pope. Seriously. I like to think that the most ardent believers were the one’s closest to the front. You know, like the people who queue up for hours before a venue opens to be closer to the band? But that could be wrong – especially because I ended up closer to the front of the crowd than the back. I was amazed at just how many photographers and TV crews there were, as well as how big of a security operation was going on. It was as if the Pope was here… Oh, yeah.
After waiting for about half an hour, the crowd began to stir and the Pope emerged. What’s up Pope?! After a few minutes of shaking hands with the fans (devote believers) he hopped into the back of his Popemobile and started driving through the crowd. Jumping out occasionally to high-5 and fist-bump the crowd (it’s possible I’m using creative license here), he sped away and it was all over. The crowd dispersed and I could eventually get on my way.
Overall, it was a fascinating hour. The whole circus of the affair, the passion of the people in the crowd, the feeling of excitement as people clambered to touch his hand, it was all just fascinating. And while to me, on a spiritual level, it meant absolutely nothing, it was a remarkable thing to witness nonetheless. The Pope had left the building.
So, yeah. That’s my story of how I unintentionally bumped into the Pope. I hope my retelling didn’t offend you too much.
Disclaimer: Okay… so the title of this post is intentionally misleading. But that’s just because it sounds better than I went to Florence and the Pope eventually came out of the Il Duomo waved a bit and drove past in the Popemobile. So ‘I bumped into the Pope’ it is.