When the pope is in Rome (check the Papal schedule here), and there are a few ways to see him:
PAPAL ANGELUS – this takes place every Sunday at midday, when the Pope addresses the crowds in St. Peter’s Square from the window of the papal apartment. The pope greets the people, often in several languages, says the Angelus and gives a papal blessing. In general this takes about 15 minutes, though it can be longer at Christmas and Easter.
PAPAL AUDIENCE – If the Pope is in Rome, the audience is held every Wednesday morning, come rain or shine. If the weather is good, it is in St. Peter’s Square, otherwise it is in the Paul VI Audience Hall to the left of the Basilica. The audience consists of readings and teachings, mostly in Italian, but the language will vary depending on the crowd.
Check the date of the audience which are generally announced 3 months in advance:
Tickets are required for this event, but they are always free – in fact, you never have to pay to see the Pope. For Americans, the easiest way to get tickets is to email the Pontifical North American College at: firstname.lastname@example.org. They will let you know if your request has been confirmed or not, and send you details about picking up your tickets on Tuesday afternoon near the Trevi Fountain.
Alternatively, if you want to pre-book tickets, you can contact the Prefecture of the Papal Household with your request. Fill out the request form and fax it to +39 06 6988 5863. Tickets can then be picked up from the Swiss Guards at the Bronze Door on the right of St. Peter’s Basilica, after security (click here for more details). Tickets are available on Tuesdays between 3pm and 6pm in winter and 3pm and 7pm in summer, and on Wednesday morning between 7am and 10am. Sometimes, it is possible to get tickets without ordering them from the same place.
ON THE DAY
The audience starts at 10.30, but there is generally already a crowd when the gates open at 8am, as everyone wants to be close to the front near the Pope. There are no reserved places, so arrive early if you want to be near the front.
In the summer, you will be very exposed to the sun, so be sure to bring water and a hat as there is little shade in the square. Even in the summer, dress should be modest, with shoulders and knees covered.
PAPAL MASSES – You need tickets to attend a papal mass as well, and the process of requesting and collecting them is the same as for the audience: fax the request form to the Prefecture of the Papal Household and if you are granted tickets, collect them from the Swiss Guard 3 days before the service.
NB: For audiences and masses you will need to go through a security check point, so it’s advisable not to bring large bags and to ensure you do not have any sharp metal objects with you.