There are two easy ways to see the Pope when you’re in Rome. Kathryn and I were able to see him both ways during our visit to Rome earlier this year. As long as the Pope isn’t away from the city for his vacation or for an apostolic visit, you should be able to see him too.
The Pope offers his blessing to all those who come to see him — believers and non-believers alike — and the blessing applies to any sacred objects present, too. Catholics who receive the blessing may be eligible for a plenary indulgence. More about that below.
An easy way to see the Pope: General audience
One easy way to see the Pope is to reserve a ticket for his general audience, held each Wednesday at 10:30 am at the Vatican. The Pope uses this time to teach — about the life of St. Robert Bellarmine the day we were there — and to make remarks on current events in numerous languages.
The Pope gives his apostolic blessing near the end of the audience, after the assembly recites the Pater Noster, the Our Father in Latin. If you’re a bad Catholic like me, you may never have memorized the Pater Noster, but the text is printed on the back of the ticket.
Tickets to a general audience are easily obtainable. A couple weeks notice is usually sufficient. Kathryn and I secured our tickets through the Bishops Office for United States Visitors to Rome, located near Trevi Fountain. To use this method, you have to be able to pick up your tickets in person between 3 pm and 7 pm on the Tuesday afternoon before the audience.
If you won’t be in Rome in time to get your tickets from the Bishops Office, consider securing your tickets from the Prefecture of the Papal Household directly.
If you have tickets, set aside the entire morning. Although the audience only lasts about an hour, gates open at 8:30 am, and you’ll want to arrive early for the best seats. A ticket will get you into the audience, but it won’t guarantee you a seat. You’ll also need to allow plenty of time to get through the long security lines.
An even easier way to see the Pope: Sunday prayer
The other easy way to see the Pope — the really easy way — is to show up for his Sunday prayer at noon in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. You don’t need tickets or a reservation. You just need to be there a few minutes before noon.
The Pope makes a few brief remarks in a number of languages, and then leads the gathered crowd in either the Angelus or the Regina Caeli in Latin, depending on the season. If you aren’t fluent in Latin — and who really is? — giant television monitors in St. Peter’s Square provide most of the text, but they still assume you know the Hail Mary in Latin. I’ve attached a cheat sheet for the Angelus, including the Hail Mary, in Latin and English, for slow learners like me.
The Pope gives his apostolic blessing after the prayer.
If you’re Catholic
Receiving the Pope’s blessing may make you eligible for a plenary indulgence under certain conditions. One of those conditions is always a recent sacramental confession. Confessors are available almost all day every day inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Read my blog post about my own confession experience at St. Peter’s for more information.
Other ways to see the Pope
There are other ways to see the Pope when you’re in Rome, such as trying to score tickets for a Papal Mass. However, the two ways I’ve mentioned here are much easier.
A final, important thing to remember about tickets to a general audience or any other Papal event: They are always free. They’re offered as a gift from the Holy Father. If you find someone trying to sell you tickets, you’re being scammed.