Every 5-7 years bishops are required to travel to Rome in order to meet with the Holy Father and other Vatican officials.  The Ohio and the-state-up-north’s bishops are in Rome for their Ad Limina. Here is a local account from Fr. Ron Williams, who was fortunate enough to be able to tag along with our local Ordinaries the other day:   

Today I got to meet the Pope!

The Ohio and Michigan bishops are in town for their Ad Limina visit. Every five to seven years, all the bishops are required to come to Rome for meetings with various curial officials. At the papal audience, they may invite one priest each to accompany them. Today, it was the Ohio bishops’ turn. Archbishop Schnurr and Bishop Binzer graciously invited Fr. Andy Umberg an…d me along with them.

We met them this morning near St. Peter’s Square, along with other priests accompanying their bishops from the other Ohio dioceses. The bishops were finishing up a meeting at a curial office. We then walked to a charted bus.
The whole group dressed in cassocks — especially the bishops in purple — became quite the focal point for photographs. Everyone along the Via Conciliazione was taking pictures of us.

We then had a short bus ride around St. Peter’s Square to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, through the Vatican Gardens, and into the courtyards of the Apostolic Palace. The interior was richly decorated with artwork and murals from the Renaissance, Baroque, and later periods.

There was a series of antechambers. We spent a few minutes in each one, gradually getting closer to our destination. In the last antechamber, a monsignor explained to us the protocol, which was pretty much as I expected — Archbishop first, Auxiliary priest second, then the priest who makes his brief visit and then gets the heck out of there.

After Archbishop Schnurr and Bishop Binzer, it was our turn. Everything happened in rapid succession. I walked up to the Holy Father, genuflected, kissed his ring, said some nice words, Fr. Andy did the same thing, the four of us posed with the Pope for a group photograph, the Pope gave each priest a Rosary, and then we left so the bishops could get down to business. All in all, not bad!

As we exited the Apostolic Palace into St. Peter’s Square, Fr. Andy and I dressed in our cassocks again became the focal point for photographs. Fr. Andy jokingly commented that it was like we were Scooby Doo at Kings Island or Goofy at Disney World — everyone wants a photo of the anonymous guy dressed in a cute costume. We got a cup of cappuccino at a cafe on the Pio Borgho, and then quickly headed back.

I had my camera in my pocket the whole time. I didn’t take any pictures because it was pointed out to me that it would have been in poor taste had I done so. As we walked along St. Peter’s Square, Fr. Andy pointed out this would be a great “cassock moment” (kinda like a Kodak moment). So we took
some pictures of ourselves, which I’ll upload later on.

We walked up the Janiculum Hill back to the North American College. When we arrived, we were surprised to see the chartered bus with the bishops getting out. They had a quick visit as well! They showed us the nice gift the Holy Father gave them — beautiful pectoral crosses (and some rosaries to hand out).

This afternoon, we’re waiting for the official photographs to be done. I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to scan and upload them before I get back to Cincinnati. But at least I have some great memories. After all, I got to see the Pope!