How to Meet the Pope

Pope Francis is attending  a mass.
... Franco Origlia/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On your next visit to Rome, plan ahead so you can take advantage of visiting the Vatican at a time when you can meet the pope. When in town, the pope makes weekly 90-minute appearances to offer blessings, prayers and a religious lecture. The event is free, but you must have a ticket to attend. Plan accordingly, and you can mark a papal experience off your bucket list.

Check to see where the papal audience will be the week you will be in Rome. The papal audience is always on Wednesdays, but the location varies depending on the time of year. The pope has audiences in St. Peter’s Square during the spring, summer and part of autumn, and in the Hall of Pope Paul VI in the autumn and winter. Occasionally during the summer holiday period of August to early September, the audience is held in the pope's vacation home in Castel Gandolfo. Look on the Papal Audience website for the calendar of audiences.

Request a ticket using one of several options. You can request a ticket directly from the Vatican. Download the request form from the Papal Audience website. Fax the form to the prefecture of the papal household. You can only make these reservations by fax. Alternatively, contact the American Catholic Church in Rome -- the Church of Santa Susanna -- at the church's website to request tickets. The organization will make ticket reservations in your name for the requested dates for you to pick up in Rome. The church only books tickets two weeks in advance due to high request volume. You can also contact a tour company and book a tour that includes the papal audience. This is the only option that will cost money -- the others are free.

Pick up your tickets. If you reserved fewer than 10 tickets, gather them from the Swiss guards at St. Peter's Basilica on the Tuesday before the audience from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. in the summer, and until 6 p.m. in the winter. If you ordered more than 10 tickets, contact the Vatican offices for instructions on where to pick them up. If the American Catholic Church in Rome booked your ticket request, go to the Santa Susanna Church’s parish office from 4:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. to pick up your tickets. The office is in Rome at N. 15 Via Venti Settembre, to the right of the church. See your tour operator for ticket distribution details.

Arrive two to three hours early for the audience. The audience starts at 10:30 a.m., but some summer audiences will start at 10 a.m. because of the heat. The seating is first-come, first-served, and a ticket does not guarantee you a seat. It is best to be early and get a seat, as the Vatican says large numbers of people arrive between 8:30 and 9 a.m. when the venue opens. Get as close as you can so that you will be along the front where the pope walks to greet visitors.

Caroline Baldwin, a corporate communications director located in South Carolina, began writing in 1998. Her work has been published in publications across the United States and Canada including Rolling Stone, Boating Life, Waterski and Wakeboarding magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies from The College of Charleston.