What a surprise and miracle!
Soon after this rare event comes the pope’s voluntary retirement!

First time in 600 years of such a unique history such a thing happened! The Pope we saw and got his blessings, within a month went on to announce his resignation!

Yes, the year 2013 held out so many unexpected prospects and events!
First came the family journey to Rome and Italy. This was a long-planned and long pending dream journey.

As a student at Oxford I planned a trip along with my British friends a journey to Greece and Rome. This was the typical, British-born tradition of the Grand European tour. However, this didn’t come through. Then, there was the one trip in 1971 when I took my family to Paris. On our way back I stopped for a few days as the guest of one Roman Catholic father, name, I remember, Father Blewett. At the Roman Cuio, the head quarters of the Jesuits we were given all the hospitality and I remember some site but not much.
For the last half a century and more I have been reading, at our home this is often the topic, Greece and Rome! So, when the opportunity came at last we seized upon it.

Thanks to meticulous planning everything went on smoothly as planned.

Ten days in Rome! So much to see in Rome alone. And that too when the opportunity came we combined trips to other cities. Naples, Pompeii and then to Florence one day and other trips were to the Hadrian Villa, outside Rome at Tivoli. Once at Hadrian Villa and Tivoli how can you miss the famed Tivoli gardens!

The Este estate, that is the famed owner, a high placed cardinal who owned and developed the gardens extensively laid out, at the fall of a small mountain head, the water falls, all so beautifully planned as artificial fountains, it is worth a wholesome sight in order to fully appreciate what the famed Renaissance Italian gardens came to represent for the world’s appreciation of culture and arts.

Of course, the great event for us in Italy was to have got the opportunity to attend the Pope Benedict XVI audience.

This is a weekly audience every Wednesday. We had booked the tickets beforehand but on that particular day it was raining heavily in Rome and we missed the tour party!
So, what? Our gut feeling was that we could still walk in!

So, in such heavy rains that caught us unaware we talked all the way from Octavian metro to Vatican city!

This is not strictly a city! But a historic site, just less a few acres within right inside the Roman city given under a treaty to the Pope and recognised a sovereign city state! The Pope is a head of a state! If you know the history of the Roman Catholic Church, then you know that the Popes, since the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the 4th century, till the very end of the Roman Empire in 1454, there were many times Popes assuming secular power as emperors! So, Popes are not just religious heads as they have become lately.

And if you read more of Italian history then you will know that during the Florence Renaissance times, (the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries) there were many who were rich and powerful like the famed Medici family, the members of the Medici family also became Popes!

The Cardinals are the next in importance in the Catholic hierarchy! So, one Cardinal who could make it to the Pope built the Tivoli gardens which we visited!

What is remarkable this time, for us, is the rare historic fact that on January 16, 2013 we saw the Pope face to face, almost so closely, the CCTV showed the Pope so closely. There were some 5,000 visitors in the largest (so far as I have seen) hall, named after John Paul II, another very popular and widely respected Pope. It was Pope Paul who brought down the Communism in the world!

So, Popes are not just representatives for one particular religion in the modern day world.
Popes, the institution, is very much help up as a symbol for upholding the conscience of the world, the world people, the entire world.

History is so strong and so in favour of the Pope. The Vatican City, the St.Peter’s Church, the very architecture, the very many artistic treasures housed in the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel with the mind-boggling Michel Angelo’s breath-taking paintings on the ceiling, you can sit all day there and get your necks pained in such upright looking at the ceiling! The Last Judgment, The Creation of the World paintings can’t be done by a human being. Such a divinely inspired man was the artist Michel Angelo.

We saw all his paintings and his world beating, David, 18 feet high, David marble statue in Florence at the Academy Museum.

Only in Italy we saw so much public importance accorded to artists and sculptors. There is no peace the number of names we had studied and collected!

In Florence, we saw such marble sculptures displayed in the open air, in public squares! They are standing there for some 500 years! So too in Naples public park, right on the most beautiful Bay of Naples!

So, when we had come home we read Pope Benedict XVI, bidding goodbye and boarding a helicopter for a peaceful exit from the outside world.

When we read this and when we saw his pictures we also shed tears like thousands of others, all across the globe.

Adieu, Pope Benedict XVI! Long life to you!

Image Source : abcnews.go.com

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