And this also explains why no other place in the world yesterday was so strongly affected by Benedict XVI’s decision to quit as Rome was.
ST PETER’S SQUARE
The first and strongest reactions took place in St Peter’s square. This is where many Catholic believers, but also simply travelers, gather before visiting the Basilica and/or the Museums each and every day of the year including a cold, grey Monday of February.
A first-time visitor wouldn’t have noticed anything in particular while staying in the square, but the gathering of TV crews and the live images on the big screen of the Pope’s spokesman holding a press conference were clear signs that a major event was taking place around midday.
At first some people thought it was the last rumor of a long season of gossips and scandals, others saw it as a joke but then the news was confirmed and surprise was the most common feeling among the people in the square.
For some it was much more than that: a French tourist in line to enter St Peter’s first fainted and then, after recovering, started speaking in English; an Italian woman said she now felt weaker and unprotected.
But the reflections of the resignation went well beyond the Vatican state and reached the whole of the city. People on the buses were unusually silent yesterday, pupils in the classrooms were quiet. Romans wanted to ponder over this old, wise man’s decision. Food for thought.
Some of them who had recently seen him in person (the Pope often visits Roman smaller churches and communities) anticipated his move as they saw him extremely tired and slow, since he shared his pain for the age and the deteriorated physical condition.
In the afternoon, St Peter’s square was empty, the strong rain and the hail drove the people out of it. Or they may be preferred to spend some time alone, quietly, meditating on what had just happened a only few yards away from them.
And completely empty was the square when the lightning seemed to hit St. Peter’s dome as you can see in this picture. According to the Vatican’s laws, the pope’s decision to quit doesn’t need to be approved by anyone. Are they so sure? What was that lightning for, then? Maybe someone up there didn’t approve of it….. Not all reactions are equal!