Yesterday was officially the first day of spring in Italy. The weather in Rome has been sunny and warm for some time and yesterday was no exception so we went for a walk to the gardens of the Villa Borghese. On the way back, we noticed that there was a crowd of people lining a small area of our main street Gregorio VII, close to where we live. Carabinieri were stationed all around and the street was closed off, so of course we stopped to find out what was going on. Turned out that the Pope was due to arrive at the Church of San Gregorio (a rather ugly church in my opinion!). We decided to join the crowd to watch his arrival.
It was quite funny listening to people’s conversations and many were discussing how he would arrive. Would he be on the popemobile or would he just stroll down the steps close by, which lead from Vatican city down to the street? I guess the Pope has done away with a lot of pomp and ceremony and people think he might be walking about in the streets, which is maybe what he would prefer! Anyhow a few minutes later the Pope drew up in his car, just an ordinary dark coloured vehicle that anybody might be in. He stepped out and waved. He has a lovely smiling face and I was glad to have caught a glimpse of him.
So why was the Pope there? Every year since 1996, the anti-Mafia group Libera has observed March 21st, the first day of spring, in memory of the victims of organized crime. The Pope attended a prayer vigil in the church and appealed to Italian gangsters to give up their lives of crime and avoid eternal damnation. An excellent appeal but I can’t imagine that there were any gangsters actually in church to hear his words. Anyhow, the newspapers have his message in their headlines today so the word is out!