Tuesday, April 12, 2005

....and a Funeral

Papal Funeral: Colosseum
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.

It was odd being in Rome in the days approaching the Pope's Funeral. Watching the television in the hotel, it felt as if the eyes of the World were on the city where we were. For the days leading up to the event there had been numerous helicopers flying overhead, presumably on their way to the Vatican. We saw large numbers of Poles arriving, many of them teenagers, some carrying flags. The media circus, to coin a cliche, was seen assembling near St Peter's square and large screens were set up in various public places, including the Circus Maximus. The preparations had obviously been made for some time: long rows of chemical toilets appeared and Red Cross personnel were everywhere handing out bottles of water to anyone who wanted one.

On the morning of the funeral there was virtually no traffic (it's impossible to imagine Rome with no traffic at all), and all the shops and tourist attractions were shut. Usually you can decide whether to go to somebody's funeral or not, but in this case the ceremony was everywhere. Not being religious, we felt like reluctant observers of the event, although we were never made to feel unwelcome. We went for quite a long walk including the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum and the Piazza del Popollo. It was weird to see the Via del Corso virtually empty of cars on a Friday morning! As well as being able to see St Peter's Square on the large screens, the sounds of the ceremony were broadcast on high quality sound systems.

After the event, the city gradually came back to life. The real high fliers headed off in their helicopters. You couldn't help feeling that for many of them this had been just another photo opportunity, with a bigger audience than most. Lesser dignitaries were whisked through the growing traffic escorted by police cars with sirens blaring, and motorcyle cops, some of whom stood up on their bikes with both hands off the handlebars to direct the traffic! Ordinary mortals simply walked quietly away, content that they had shown their respect for a great man.