Hong Kong Correspondent
An audience with Pope Francis is not as difficult as one might imagine. Indeed, there is no charge for visitors. That is, for the Vatican weekly general audiences, not one to one or small of groups invited to meet the Pope personally.
Despite the very high number of requests for those Private or Special Papal Audiences, they can be arranged, either for an individual (though this is exceptional) or for a group.
Those invited include persons with extraordinary positive achievements, beneficial activists who have influence, and of course, international politicians and public figures.
For Private or Special Papal Audiences, everyone may apply through the Prefecture of the Papal Household. Again, with so many requests, advice from those familiar with the procedure is recommended for a chance of success, and patience. Replies are slow.
For general public audiences in winter and most of the autumn, a ticket is normally required to enter the Pope Paul VI audience hall. However in warmer months, the audience is held in St Peter’s Square, where tickets are only required for the seating. The Hall, online sources say, has over 4,000 seats. However, St Peter’s Square has held 300,000. A few of the earliest arrivals, with tickets only, may get seats.
Free tickets are available from Swiss Guards at the Bronze Door, just after the security check at St Peter’s Basilica, from 3 PM until 7 PM in summer, or until 6 PM in winter, the day before the audience. A maximum of nine tickets are given to each applicant. For groups of ten or more, reservations must be made.
To get close to the Pope during audiences, arriving early to the audiences is a must. Middle aisle seats may also bring one close to the Pontiff as he walks by.
The weekly audiences are held every Wednesday, except when the Pope is on pastoral visits in Italy or overseas, or during his August holiday.
During the audiences, the Pope’s addresses are summarized in different languages.
At the end, the Pope imparts his Apostolic Blessing.
(Photo from vatican.va)