Newly-married Pregnancy Assistance office manager Lydia Stanley (nee
Fernandez) reports on what it was like to meet Pope Benedict XVI while
On the April 18 John and I celebrated our sacrament of marriage at the Good Shepherd Church in Lockridge. It was a wonderful ceremony celebrated by Fr Vinh Dong and concelebrated by five other priests (Fathers Dan Foley, Hong Pham, Paul Carey, John O’Reilly, and Anthony van Dyke).
The Mass was the highlight of the whole day for us. Many of our family and friends attended and enjoyed the special celebration.
Three days after the wedding, John and I hopped on a plane to begin our three month, ‘round the world’ honeymoon.
Prior to leaving we arranged to have tickets for the papal audience ready to collect at our accommodation. Rome was our first stop and so after arriving at the airport at 6.50am, we very quickly made our way to St Peter’s Square for the general audience which began at 10.30am. It was wonderful to be present but John and I knew that it would have been nice to receive the papal blessing for newly weds but it was impossible on that day.
The next day we met a young American couple staying at the same pensione and they told us that they received the special papal blessing for newlyweds – and met the Pope. Wow! We asked how they got the blessing and so the next day we too headed out to the Bishop’s Office and filled in a request for two ‘white tickets’ which permitted us to enter the section for newly married couples for the next papal audience, which was the following Wednesday, April 29.
We had to rearrange our travel schedule and dropped one of our days in Assisi in order to train it back to Rome on Tuesday to be at the papal audience for Wednesday. It was a somewhat challenging journey from the train ride from Assisi to Rome to walking many kilometres around Rome just to find appropriate clothes (white) and a veil or something resembling a veil as I did not have my wedding dress or accessories with me.
On the day of the papal audience we left early in the morning and lined up outside St Peter’s square from 7am. There were crowds of people that were already starting to queue up. Once the gates opened and the crowds rushed in, we fortunately were able to freely walk up to guards and present our white tickets. We were then guided to the very front section on the right side of where Pope Benedict XVI sat (literally only metres away).
When Pope Benedict XVI arrived then spoke, the crowds cheered and the atmosphere was great. At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted all of the bishops then made his way around the fenced section and soon he approached us. John first greeted the Pope and kissed his ring, then he said “we are John and Lydia from Australia and we just got married”.
The Pope’s face lit up when hearing Australia and he said “oh Australia! Welcome! … God bless you both and your families …” and he held both of our hands. It all happened very quickly and all I remember saying was ‘thank you’ a few times and just kept smiling!
It was such an honour and blessing to have met him and to have received his blessing. It is definitely an experience that we will never forget and feel so blessed to have experienced.