SELECT PHOTOS BY ANDREW FREIRICH

Italy appeals to every single one of your senses! Food, geography, culture, history… and maybe you can get blessed, too!

After your first visit, Italy lingers with you for a long time.  Simply it’s a culture and country deeply rooted with characteristics that appeal to global populations. My first visit to Italy included Venice, Rome, Milan and Florence.  A diverse array of history, food and culture.  I immersed myself in each city and did both the atypical tourist attractions, but also went off the beaten path and explored.  Both were very satisfying.

One experience in particular will always stay with me.

Blessed by the Pope

The image I photographed  below is in St. Peters Basilica, Pope John Paul was making his way towards me, and to my complete surprise and amazement he stopped to bless me.

I met Pope John Paul at the Vatican.

While in Rome,  I took a side trip to visit the Vatican. There was a mass going on inside St. Peters Basilica, so I made my way to the entrance. As I opened the door to the Basilica, it was standing room of about six inches apart with about a thousand people occupying the church. Having a complete fluency in Spanish and some Italian, I began my journey with the goal making my way to the front.  Who knew the next time I would have this opportunity? After 20 minutes of careful navigation,  I was able to make my way through the sea of people located twenty feet from the Pulpit. Waiting patiently for about thirty minutes, I then heard a roar from the crowd “La Papa La Papa”.  A line was formed with the Pope in front followed by his Cardinals and security close by Pope John Paul. As he walked around the area of the Pulpit roped off, myself and about 100 other people who were fortunate to have negotiated our way up against the rope that separated us from the Pope. Shaped as a rectangle,  the Pope slowly made his way around the roped off section,  touching the hands of everyone who was pressed against the rope.  When he arrived to where I was standing, he stopped, and reached out to hold both of my hands while he looked intently into my eyes. With his hands wrapped around mine, a warm wave of tranquility went through my body.  He began with some prayers in Latin, and then switched over to English and asked me where I was from? Was I here on business or pleasure? Was it my first time?   The Pope then proceeded to place his hands on my shoulders and once again blessed me in Latin, he ended by saying in English “I hope you return my son”.  I was so taken by this experience that it seemed surreal.  After a little while when I was back in the center of Rome having dinner, I knew that was a once in a lifetime experience, and to this day, still ask myself “Why did he only stop to talk with me, and bless me as he did”?  So incredibly memorable!

He placed his hands over mine, and asked me where I was from. He then put his hands on my shoulders and proceeded to bless me in Latin. He concluded in English by saying to me  “I hope you return my son”.  I was in complete awe. After a moment for it to sink in,  I watched the Pope make his way around a few hundred other’s by the pulpit.  I was more in awe, noticing that I was the only person he stopped to speak with and bless out of hundreds.

  • Pope John Paul, making his way towards me inside St. Peters Basilica. Being blessed by the Pope and speaking with him for a short time, was something I will never forget
  • Venice -003
  • Enjoying a bottle of wine and history in the canals of Venice, Italy
  • My Gondoliers taking a break after our 2 hour cruise in Venice canals