I was racking my brain when my mother suggested a religious pilgrimage. Since this is her first visit to the European continent, I wanted the trip to be special. What better place to celebrate Easter than the center of the Roman Catholic faith - The Vatican. Procuring the tickets to a papal mass at St Peter's was a bit of an enigma. For those who are interested, I thought I'll share my tips about attending a mass at the Vatican.
1.What should I do first?
Before you embark on a religious trip to the Vatican, do check the Pope's calendar before booking your flight or tickets. I made that silly mistake and the week we were in Rome, the Pope was in Cuba. Thankfully, we were still able to make it to the Palm Sunday service.
2. How do I get tickets to the Wednesday Papal Audience?
You can get them via Church of Santa Susana. Please remember to request for tickets at least 3 weeks in advance.
3. How do I get tickets to the papal mass?
All tickets are free. There seemed to be tour operators specializing in pilgrimages which charge for tickets or do not bother to get tickets at all, leaving their groups hanging behind the barrier at the services. To get tickets, simply fax your request to (011) 39 06 6988 5863. You can also write to: Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Pontifical Household, Vatican City 00120, Europe.
You will receive a reply directly from the Vatican to confirm that your request has been noted. There will be instructions to pick up your tickets from St Peter's Basilica. The Bronze door is located on the right colonnade (imagine St Peter's Square with a row of columns on your left and right as if you're being embraced). You will have to pass the x-ray machine and continue walking until you see the imposing Bronze door up the stairs with 2 Swiss guards. You will only be able to collect the tickets the day before.
The Suore Pallottine, a convent located a mere 5 minute walk from the main entrance of the Vatican offers accommodation AND will help you get tickets to any mass if you request them to do so.
4. How early should I arrive at St Peter's?
If you want to get a good spot, be prepared to be there 2 hours before. Otherwise, pick a spot at either ends of the rows so you can at least catch a close up glimpse of the pope.
The atmosphere was electrifying with many arriving from far flung countries in droves. It was actually heartening to see many youngsters in the crowd of thousands, some waving their flags enthusiastically. The mass was conducted in Italian, Latin, English, French, German and Spanish. How wonderful was that? Thankfully, the weather was slightly cloudy so we didn't have to stand under blistering heat nor freezing cold. I have never seen more dog collars nor nun habits in my life all congregated within the vicinity of the Vatican.
What made it even more special was that we met a lovely Canadian who graciously invited my mother (I couldn't bear the thought of getting up at 6am) to a special mass held at a small chapel near the tomb of St Peter. You're allowed to go down to the tomb by appointment only. Thank you, Sheena!