HONEYMOON EDIT: Meeting the Pope

"You met the POPE?!"

We did indeed! 

It was surreal and left us both truly speechless and in absolutely awe.

Gavin and I were beyond blessed to have been able to celebrate our 2nd month wedding anniversary at the General Audience with the Holy Father, Pope Francis. As newlyweds, you are grouped in the sposi novelli category. (newlyweds in Italian)

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The Holy Father, Pope Francis

Vatican City, Italy 2019

During our engagement year, we went through a lot of preparation - which of course, included honeymoon plans. We knew we wanted to visit Europe, narrowing down the countries was tough! Knowing Gavin's love for Italian food, we knew a stop in Italy was a given. Plus, I personally think that Italy has such a romantic and magical ambience. There is just so much history within the cities - walking through the alleyways and visiting the sites truly transports you through time.

 

After extensive research on how we can secure an audience with the Pope, we were able to plan around the date of the General Audience. They are held on Wednesday's and usually outdoors. Seeing as we were attending in December, it was scheduled to be indoors - you know, to keep Pope Francis warm. December 18th happened to be the last one for 2019 and fell on our 2nd month wedding anniversary. (Lucky us!)

Here are some details:

  • they are held on Wednesdays, unless the Pope is travelling

  • usually held outdoors, except during winter months

  • if it's the summer months, be prepared to wait in scorching heat - bring water and portable electric fans!

  • they are free, on a first come-first serve basis

  • be there EARLY!  Earlier than the early birds

  • you have to go through security and it tends to be a very, very long lineup

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The Holy Father, Pope Francis

Vatican City, Italy 2019

From some personal blogs I read, it mentioned to contact your local diocese for tickets. Other articles said you can just go on the Vatican's website and get tickets. Either way works - just make sure you get them in advanced. 

 

I was able to acquire our tickets by reaching out to the Chancery Office at the Archdiocese of Toronto. I also happen to work as a Youth Ministry Director the year we got married. I contacted the office in March 2019! That's how early I requested for tickets. Take my word for it, the earlier the better! Even earlier...is even better! Especially since we wanted to be in the newlyweds section and receive a Papal blessing. 

Through the Archbishop's office, they were able to secure us tickets for sposi novelli. Instructions were emailed to me, via a letter from the Vatican and it read: "presenting this letter, they will be able to come to the Bronze Door of the Apostolic Palace to collect their two tickets."

This letter alone gave me absolute GOOSEBUMPS! 

It continued with: "kindly be advised that there are no special tickets for newlyweds couples. However, if they come in wedding attire you will be accommodated in a special section."

EVEN MORE GOOSEBUMPS! 

I still get them when I refer back to this letter. All the memories of that day are so distinct and live totally rent-free in my mind! 

In order to be categorized in the sposi novelli section at the General Audience, you would need to see the Holy Father within 3 months of your wedding. Once you've exceeded that timeframe, you'll be placed in the general section. 

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Collected our tickets

Apostolic Palace, Vatican City 2019

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General Audience tickets

Apostolic Palace, Vatican City 2019

We collected our tickets the day prior, on the 17th at the time dictated in the letter. We spent the whole day in Vatican City, touring the grounds and visiting the Vatican Museum. We were also able to attend Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, which was celebrated in Italian. What better time to brush up on your Italian, right?

They only allowed one of us to enter into the Apostolic Palace to retrieve our tickets. I went in because I had all the email correspondence between the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Vatican. It was so exciting, yet I was nervous for some reason! I think a part of me thought maybe I would collect our tickets from Pope Francis himself! Could you imagine?! Also, this area of St. Peter's square is heavily guarded! By polizia (Rome Police Enforcement) and Swiss Guards.

There were Swiss Guards at the door (pictured) and practically everywhere in the hallway from the Bronze Door to the room you collected your tickets from. Thankfully Gavin was quick to snap that photo of me at the steps of the Apostolic Palace, because the guards don't let you "loiter".

Preceding our long day, we slowed the evening down and found a place to eat to recollect. We celebrated our anniversary eve with gelato of course! We knew we had to call it an early night, since we had to be up and dressed in our wedding attire for the next day. Being a planner, I steamed and laid out our clothes the night before and tried to calm my nerves! I also had to make sure I brought the original copy of our marriage license to show the guards that we were indeed newlyweds.

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In the Sposi Novelli section

Vatican City 2019

The morning of the General Audience, I was even MORE nervous. In a mere few hours, we were meeting THE POPE! We got dressed and made sure we had breakfast - we didn't know how the morning would pan out. The tickets said 9:30am, but we left our hotel at 7:00am thinking we had plenty of time before it started. Boy, were we WRONG and LATE! We thought we would be one of the first ones there! The lineup for security was insanity! There was no order and groups upon groups of people were already there.

Panic dawned upon us as we kept seeing the time move, but not the security line! We were already nervous we wouldn't make it inside! Strangers staring at us wasn't helping either. Though, they couldn't help it, we were dressed in our wedding attire! Thankfully, I wore white loafers instead of my actually wedding shoes - heels and cobblestone do not bode well together. My wedding outfit was custom made and actually came in 3 pieces - it had a top, pants and a skirt. Knowing that we had to pack our wedding attire, I only brought the top and pants with me. My wedding skirt was a 10m long train and would totally weigh down my luggage!

After waiting in line for about an hour and a half, we practically ran through the crowds of people. Thankfully, our wedding attire allowed us to stick out like a sore thumb and were guided by the Swiss Guards to the correct entrance for the sposi novelli section.

When we finally made it to the door, an usher asked to see our marriage license to prove that we were newlyweds still within our 3 month mark. Guess what Dianne forgot?? That's right! Our marriage license!!!! The usher asked to see our wedding bands for the engraving of our names and date - and guess what - we couldn't show him that! Between the time after our wedding and our departure of our honeymoon, we just didn't have time to get that done. It was on our list when we returned though! Finally, he asked to show him a photo taken on our wedding day to see the timestamp as proof. Frantically going through our phones and fumbling like crazy for what felt like minutes, he gave in and just let us in. BLESS YOUR SOUL! 

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St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Just after Sposi Novelli

We were finally in! 3rd row from the front of the sposi novelli section. I was a little disappointed that we weren't able to make the front row, but I didn't let that affect me. WE WERE MINUTES FROM MEETING POPE FRANCIS! The newlyweds were sectioned off to the right of the room, filled with couples in wedding attire. It was such an amazing sight to see! We sat next to a couple from Washington, DC who have only been married for 2 weeks! 

You could feel pure excitement in the entire room, everyone patiently awaiting his arrival. You could feel that unity among everyone, it was like being in a dream - you were present, but felt like you were also on a cloud. The room was filled with the world, essentially. Everyone from all parts are welcome to attend the General Audience.

As soon as they opened the doors, the choir sung a very upbeat song (I believe in Italian...?), though I was too distracted and busy trying to locate Pope Francis! As he made his way down the aisle, he stopped and shook hands of those in the middle aisle. He was always surrounded by security detail, who were very very close to him to ensure his protection. He was incredibly joyful, pure of true happiness being around his sons and daughters.

The morning continued with a short catechesis from him, followed by the gospel reading which was read in multiple languages. During this time, we witnessed how our faith was universal - it might have only been translated in 12 languages, but everyone present understood at least one of them. Regardless of what language you spoke, we were all there to be in the presence of our Holy Father. He continues his day by greeting every person and family member there. He makes his way around, aisle by aisle, row by row. He doesn't rush to greet you and speak to you even if it was for a few seconds. As we watched him approach our section, all the newlyweds practically stumbled over and atop chairs to get in sight of him.

 

Gavin and I aren't the tallest of the bunch and we were hidden behind a taller couple. I just made sure my hand stuck out in between them, even a quick handshake from the Holy Father was good enough for me! As we say Pope Francis get closer to us, we just kept our hands outstretched in between the couple. What I didn't expect was for Pope Francis to ask the couple to move aside so he could see Gavin and I! As they moved aside, we were in full view of the Holy Father and I was just SPEECHLESS. He looks you in the eyes and gives you both a blessing. We couldn't even fathom a simple 'hello'! As he let go of my hand, I just burst into tears. I was so overwhelmed with his presence and the love he showed us in the mere seconds we interacted. While Gavin consoled me and I wiped my tears away, trying to regain composure, they were ushering us out to walk up the aisle towards the exit. As each newlywed couple exited, we were congratulated through applause! It was such an amazing feeling of love from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ! They knew we were all newly married and wanted to extend their best wishes.

As we tried to process that incredible moment we experienced together, brand new in our marriage, we walked into a sea of couples dressed in their wedding attire commemorating a truly unforgettable time in their lives! Despite the distance and the fact that outside this moment, we were all strangers - it was amazing to be able to witness and share this significant milestone with fellow newlyweds in our faith. 

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Official photo from the General Audience, 2019

(original photos are delayed in arriving to us!)