VATICAN CITY — For the first time, Pope Benedict XVI will hold his weekly general audience in the main public square of Castel Gandolfo.
The Vatican originally scheduled the pope’s Sept. 1 audience for St. Peter’s Square. The pope was supposed to helicopter back to the Vatican tomorrow morning, hold the audience in St. Peter’s Square, then head back to the summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, in the hills about 15 miles south of Rome.
But this morning, the Prefecture of the Papal Household announced that tomorrow’s audience will be in the main square outside the papal villa. The faithful can fill the square and the main street leading to it. And the pope will be seated in front of the main doors of the villa, the prefecture said.
If the pilgrims aren’t with a group that has a bus, they will have to catch an early morning train from Rome. Also, it might be more difficult to see the pope, but the entrance to the villa is sloped, so he will be a bit higher than the people in the square.
Generally, the pope’s audiences are suspended completely in late July to allow him time for a real vacation. Then in August and September, when he’s in residence at Castel Gandolfo, the decision to hold the audience in the villa’s courtyard or at the Vatican usually depends on how many people request tickets. The courtyard is small.
Apparently, there were more requests this week than using the courtyard could satisfy, but not enough to force the pope to come back to the Vatican for the morning.
Visitors who arrived at the Vatican today to pick up their free tickets for tomorrow’s audience were advised in extra-large print. The video screens in the square, which usually are used to broadcast papal events, advised pilgrims that plans had changed.