National Catholic Reporter:

What did they come to see?
By Rita Larivee,  SSA

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These photographs, taken over the course of one day, attempt to capture the scene at Vatican City as Catholics throughout the world discern the meaning of these events. Between now and the election of the next pope, National Catholic Reporter will provide additional photographs as they become available.
A common scene was of people napping as they rested from their journey. Though the camera can capture but a small scene, people sat along the entire curbside lining the piazza.  Some ate, others read, but all were part of a very relaxed and satisfying moment of presence to the significance of this historical entity. 
While there were police officers around to help coordinate movement, there was an unusual awareness within the gathering that sacred ground was to be respected and that it was best to remain along its informal perimeter.

Barriers were present, but more as a form of assistance rather than barricade.  There were distinct lines for access or no access, but there was a clear openness to exceptions.  It was as if an unwritten rule was known by all that the fences acted more as guide than rule, and that this knowledge was enough to facilitate a situation that worked for all.
Young  people were everywhere, carrying their sleeping bags on their backs.  They came from a wide variety of countries and their faces radiated tremendous joy.  The excitement in their voices gave clear indication of their delight of being witnesses to history, not only as observer, but as participant to the unfolding of something bigger than themselves.
Everywhere within the gathering were the scribes, both professional and amateur. Cell phones and cameras were being used to tell the story, to record the story, and to preserve it for others who could not come. 
Broadcast crews carried their equipment as they interviewed travelers and residents alike.  Why did they come?  What did they hope to find?  Are they Catholic and, if not, why are they here?
Facing the Saint Peter's Basilica from the back of the piazza was a platform filled with equipment that would replace the scrolls of old.
If one looked up, the tents, which were erected on rooftops in preparation for the broadcasting of the story could be viewed from afar.  The scene was a interesting image when compared against the use of tents in the Old and New Testaments. 
Aligning the main street to the piazza were very large video/television screens.  The attention given to providing information and scenes from what was happening inside was very uplifting.  At no time, regardless of the size of the crowd, did one feel lost in a sea of confusion. 
If one could not see the screen, there were large speaker systems as well, broadcasting either music, speeches or prayers.
The crowd gave way when needed for the photographer who needed an extra moment to take a shot. 


People came from a wide number of countries and were being interviewed by journalists who spoke their language.  Whichever way one turned, a different language could be heard, yet all understood.
The walls made excellent seating for young people gathered in song and friendship.  Though the Catholic tradition is old, a large part of the crowd was distinctively young. The energy in the air was electrified by their enthusiasm for being a part of this religious tradition.
Guitars could be heard as groups walked through the streets giving thanks to a man they admired and respected.  They often chanted John Paul II and other similar statements of affection and gratitude as they walked amongst others as witness to the moment.
And for those willing to assume the task, they stood and sat quietly overseeing the knapsacks and backpacks that carried the hopes the those who had come.
NOTE:  This photograph presentation has been divided into multiple parts.  Click on the link to the right for more.
For more photographs, click here.
Copyrighted 2005 The National Catholic Reporter Publ. Co.
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