Neighbors with the Pope

From 4400 Margaret Circle in Minnesota to 505 University Avenue in Madison to Vicolo della Penitenza 26 in Rome, Italy, I am living just a few blocks down from Pope Benedict XVI’s humble abode. I wanted to devote an entire blog just to the Vatican because it is my favorite spot in Rome. While searching for photos for this post, I realized I have been to the Vatican a lot of times…and I am positive I will be back before I leave.

Vatican City is an unreal place. Around 800 people live in Vatican City compared to the almost three million who live in Rome, but there is more religion and history there than anywhere. You could spend years here and never see everything. I have been in Vatican Square, inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel. I have been to mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Ash Wednesday mass at the church of St. Sabina and I was fortunate enough to be up close at a mass in the Vatican Square with the Pope, thanks to the wonderful Greene family!

Here are some pictures from inside St. Peter’s Basilica:


Mass at the Vatican




And some other views of the Vatican:


Vatican Square at nighttime.


Up close and personal.


Right when we got here…still in Christmas mode.


Sneak peak.


During the snow storm.


St. Peter’s Basilica at nighttime.


View from Castel Sant’Angelo.



As a good Catholic, I decided to search for the best place to go to Ash Wednesday Mass and I ended up finding the perfect spot…lucky me, the Pope ended up leading the mass. You needed special tickets to get inside the church because it was so small, but they had seating outside for everyone else, where a screen had been set up, so we could watch everything that was happening inside. The mass was held at St. Sabina church, which is quite a ways away from the Vatican. I didn’t know the Pope was going to be doing the mass; otherwise I would have known to get there a lot earlier. I was still able to get a good seat outside, however.  My view of the screen:


I was able to receive ashes and communion and even follow the mass in Latin through this:

The whole mass in Latin, Italian and English

At the end of the mass, the Pope greeted the audience, shook people’s hands and blessed the children (which seriously almost brought me to tears – it was very cool to see). One particular baby got some special treatment and I happened to run into them at the Colosseum a couple days later, where they said it was complete luck that their baby got to be blessed.

One very special baby.

The Pope got directly into his car, so I only got to see him through the window, but all of the priests, bishops and even cardinals came out to talk with the crowds of people. I was literally standing next to men you could potentially become Pope.

An American Cardinal.


Through a connection with my Auntie Deb, I was invited to attend a mass with all of the bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. They were here for a week on a special trip to meet with the Pope (if only I could have gone with for that experience). The mass was at the very beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, thought to be the oldest church in Rome.

Outisde view.


Inside view.


Bethlehem Crypt. Said to contain wood from the Holy Crib of Jesus. Also outside of the chapel is the Tomb of Bernini and his family.

It was the shortest mass I had ever been to…only 30 minutes…that’s my kind of mass. I got to meet Minnesota’s Arch Bishop, John Nienstedt and I also got interviewed by a writer for the Catholic Spirit, so look for my name in there! My Aunt Deb knows a sister who knows Bishop Lee Piche and so he invited me to their special mass.


Bishop Lee Piche and I.


All of the bishops.


Pretty good seat for the mass.

Thanks Auntie Deb for the hook up!


Without a doubt one of the coolest moments of my life:


Stephanie, Mike, Salome, and Aidan Greene and I got up close and personal with the Pope for his Wednesday mass and blessing. Anyone can be a part of the audience of this mass, but not everyone gets to sit where we sat. With a little help from our church back home and the Arch Diocese, we scored sweet seats that beat even front row at a Lakers game.

We got to St.Peter’s Square around 9:00 to get the best seats in our section. We picked what we thought looked like great seats, but it turned out we were sitting right behind this unfortunate post that hid the Pope from us for most of the mass. Regardless, we were still just feet from the Pope and able to see a lot of him at the end. The mass started around 11:00 and finished around noon with the official Pope blessing. I, of course, brought a whole backpack of things to get blessed. I was able to get special presents blessed for my Grandma and Grandpa, Madlyn, and my family and friends, so look forward to those! The blessing was short and sweet (we barely even realized it was happening), but we were there for it!

The badly placed post…but no zoom needed here.


They moved the microphone to his seat, so he was always behind the post.


Very popular man…the privileged people who lined up to see him all brought him gifts.


The getaway golf cart.

We also sat next to a guy from the Netherlands who turned out to be Dutch royalty. He was a dressed up in a coat and top hat because he was a private guest of the Papacy and was being housed by the Vatican. Oh and he asked me out…so you may as well start referring to me as Princess Hannah because that fantasy isn’t too far from reality (a girl can hope). Sadly I was unable to meet up with him at the bars later that night, but who knows maybe he will track me down with his special royal connections.

The whole day was very special and it was great to share it with the Greene family! Thanks so much Greenes!

I have another post coming up with more from the Vatican Museum and my time with the Greene family!