General audiences with the Pope are held every Wednesday at St. Peter’s Square.
The January 8 audience, earlier this year, was probably the thing I looked forward to the most during our trip. Not because Pope Francis is one of the most popular men to ascend to the throne of St. Peter; certainly not because I “idolize” him, although I admit I’m a fan. Pope Francis himself is averse to that “mythology” of the Pope and said, quoting Freud, “In every idealization there is an aggression.” Truth be told, I worry that underneath this fascination the world has with the Pope, there is also a bit of watchful waiting — for him to fail. And he will fail in many ways; he’s human, so let’s just get that out of the way. I looked forward to seeing the Pope in person because there are just people who, by virtue of their own character and joyful demeanor, make you want to be a better person. I have friends like that (for which I am thankful); Pope Francis is the same. His presence simply inspires.
But I digress.
To get tickets to the general audience, you can contact the Prefecture of the Papal Household directly, or you can go through the Church of Santa Susanna. The tickets are free.
- When obtaining tickets from the Prefecture of the Papal Household, there is a form that you need to fill up and fax. The tickets can be picked up at the Bronze Door (St. Peter’s Square) either on Tuesday (3 PM – 9 PM) or on Wednesday itself (7 AM – 10 AM). This seems to be the most direct, no-frills route but you’ll need access to a fax machine. Instructions | Request Form (PDF) | Request Form (Word) | Update (2/2017): How to Send a Fax Online
- The website of the Church of Santa Susanna contains general information, instructions, and a request form that you can fill up directly online. The tickets are distributed on the Tuesday before the audience at the church office. The ticket is free, and the online request form is very convenient, but you’ll be asked for a donation (any amount) when you pick up the ticket. (You can decline, of course, but it’s a little difficult to do that when you’ve just chatted up the priest and asked him for directions and tips; at any rate, it’s for a good cause.)
Other helpful links:
- General Information – http://www.papalaudience.org/
- Papal Audience Schedule – http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/en/udienze_en.html
- Arrive early if you want to get good seats. For most of us, attending a papal audience will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so there’s no reason not to sacrifice a few hours of sleep in order to arrive at St. Peter’s by 7 AM.
- Get seats near the aisles if you can’t get ones in the first few rows. Before the audience starts, the Pope will make his way through the audience and aisle seats will get you as close as you can be.
- Lines to get inside St. Peter’s Square from the direction of the Metro can get pretty long pretty fast. If you see that this is the case when you arrive, you can probably get in much quicker by going around to the other side of St. Peter’s Square and joining the shorter queues there.
Anticipation and excitement throbbed through the morning air as we waited for the audience to start. More than that, there was an atmosphere of palpable joy, a sense of kinship and belonging. Strangers exchanged greetings and smiled at each other. An elderly man two seats away literally giggled every minute or so. A young man in glasses and colorful costume stood attentively near the center aisle; with his cherubic face and polite smile, he looked more like a member of a boys’ choir somewhere and not what he actually was: a massively lethal Swiss guard. A cheer rose from the crowd, and then — there he was! Pope Francis! He smiled at everyone and raised his hand in blessing, over and over, over and over. Standing in the sunshine, caught up in the moment, it was hard not to feel happy and humbled and blessed.
“How to Get Tickets for the General Audience with Pope Francis” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.