On Scene with Bill Wilson: With Pope Francis

Pope Francis acknowledges the greeting from the crowds as he enters St Peter’s Square for the April 10 General Audience

The new pope and I share a common name. He chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. My middle name was chosen by my parents in honor of a saint, just not one recognized by the Catholic Church. She was the nanny my parents depended on when they needed help with caring for four children. So when it was announced that the new pope would be named Francis it sent chills up and down my spine. I had thought about applying for press accreditation when I was in Rome last year. The selection of a new Pope made me decide to do it this time.


Photographer William FRANCIS Wilson at St. Peter’s Square April 10.

I applied via the Vatican website supplying the necessary paperwork including work assignment and proper identification. When I arrived in Rome I just went to the Vatican press and picked up the press badge that allowed me to attend the General Audience on April 10. Fernando and I arrived several minutes before the gates to Saint Peter’s Square where opened.

A jumbotron view of the Pope giving his blessing.

The press office gave me the instructions that I was to use the entrance closest to the statue of St Peter and there would be a person to tell me where I could go. It didn’t exactly happen that way. I was prevented from getting to the St. Peter statue, but the person in charge of security told me I could remain where I was if I was behind the barricade. It turned out that was exactly were I wanted to be because it was were the Pope would go by in the pope mobile at the beginning of the event.


Crowd reacts to seeing Pope Francis at the beginning of the April 10 General Audience.

The section where I was actually had chairs which provided useful in two ways. One as a place to sit during the two hour wait for the audience to begin and when the Pope came by I was able to stand on it and get some good photos. There was a group of ladies on my right who spoke only Italian and a group of people on my left who spoke only German. Surprisingly the time went by very quickly, part of the reason was we were near one of the VIP entrances so it was fun to people watch.

Newt Gingrich and wife.

The format of the audience is simply the Pope gives his lesson for the day in Italian and then that is translated into 8 different languages, only one of which I could understand. After each translation the Pope greets delegations from that region of the world in attendance.

Pope greeting specially invited attendees.

Then the Pope gives his blessing to the crowd in the Square that was estimated to be about 40,000. Then he turns his attention to those near him and greets the Cardinals and Bishops present. In the few seconds given each person Pope Francis seemed to have the range of conversation from serious thoughtful listening to more animated laughs.

Pope Francis waves to the crowds as he walks towards the pope mobile parked on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica

Then greets the people in the front rows of the sections on either side of papal awning. Again the Pope seemed to enjoy the personal interactions. Then after waving to the crowds still waiting, he gets into the pope mobile and is driven into the Vatican. In about an hour and a half the event is over.

Pope Francis reacts to the Argentina flag being waved by spectators as he leaves the April 10 General Audience at St. Peter’s Square.

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