Enthusiasm overtook St. Peter’s Square this warm Sunday afternoon as the faithful gathered for the customary praying of the midday Angelus with the Pope. Children were on parents’ shoulders waiving Vatican flags with Pope Francis’ face, others weaved trying to find a spot with a good view of the Pontiff. Once the Holy Father appeared at the window, the applause intensified.
As he had promised, the Holy Father gave a free gift to the audience: pocket Gospels.
Faithful were surprised and delighted. They soon became aware where the books would be distributed and immediately flocked there. Enthusiastically competitive, pilgrims were happy to realize that the number of pocket Gospels was sufficient to accomodate the faithful in the Square. There were posts set up, with stacks of books piled on tables in the middle, from which volunteers distributed the coveted books.
Pilgrims originally from Pope Francis’ homeland of South America told ZENIT of their journeys.
Ignacio Vera, Camila Mandich and their children, Magdalena, 2, and Santiago,1, form a family who came from the U.K., but are originally from Chile. Ignacio explained to ZENIT that it was a “big effort to come here with my family, and both children under age 3, but to have the opportunity to see the Pope is something priceless.” He added, “especially being from Chile, we love Argentina. We feel very close to the Holy Father, who has visited Chile several times.”
“I can feel the Spirit of God in the Square,” said Hortensio Orellano, 78, who traveled from Argentina to see the Pope. Hortensio Orellano, with a warm smile on his face, told ZENIT, “It was extraordinary to, for the first time, for a Christian, to visit Rome and see the Pope, to be in the Eternal City.” He explained it was his first time to Rome.
Orsellano added that at age 78, “This experience is not the end of my life, but a grand experience within it.”