Pope Francis celebrates first Easter at Vatican
Meghan Thomassen | Wednesday, April 3, 2013
ROME – This Sunday, more than 100 Notre Dame study abroad students joined the thousands packed into St. Peter’s Square to attend the first Easter Mass presided over by Pope Francis.
Bobby Weltner, a junior studying abroad in London, said he loved attending this very special Italian Mass.
“Getting to see the Pope up close and to celebrate communion with people from around the world is pretty special. It’s been a phenomenal experience,” Weltner said.
After the Mass, Pope Francis boarded the “pope-mobile” and shook hands with the people in the square, kissed several babies and embraced attendees confined to wheelchairs lined up along the road. Weltner said Pope Francis’s special attention to some of society’s most vulnerable awed onlookers.
“There were some really touching moments when he was driving around,” Weltner said. “He was hugging a special needs kid, and he really held that hug for a long time.”
Amanda Bambury, a junior studying abroad in Paris this year, said she appreciated how much time Pope Francis took to greet the crowd.
“He went around a lot trying to see as many pilgrims as he could. We were running around trying to catch the pope,” Bambury said. “It’s amazing that so many people tried to get to the square, just to go to Mass with the pope. It was great to hear people cheer, ‘Viva la Papa!’ There’s just so much love for our pope.”
Regina Gilmour, a junior studying in London, said the students who participated in Campus Ministry’s Easter pilgrimage “track” in Rome over the weekend said they felt honored and lucky to participate in the special day.
“It was intense,” Gilmour said. “It’s an experience you can’t have on any other trips. Notre Dame just has that connection that you wouldn’t have been able to [have] on your own.”
Gilmour said doing the pilgrimage for her first visit to Rome infused the trip with a more religious spirit.
“What struck me the most was you would see all these ancient Roman ruins and then also talk about how Christians had been martyred there,” Gilmour said.
Junior Mary Coghlin, who is also studying in London this semester, said the Easter Sunday Mass gave her goose bumps.
“It was like a dorm Mass, but in St. Peter’s Square.” Coghlin said. “It was beautiful.”
Jack Trunzo, a junior studying abroad in London, said he sat in the aisles closest to the pope. He said his family received tickets from Cardinal James Michael Harvey, who is from their hometown of Milwaukee.
“My archbishop connected me to the cardinal and I was able to meet him for dinner one night,” Trunzo said. “He was fantastic, he’s just kind of a normal guy. He was fluent in Italian and ordered everything for the table.”
Trunzo said Cardinal Harvey spoke about his experience in the conclave that elected Pope Francis.
“Every time we talked about conclave he would use the words, ‘when I was locked up.’ He said that jokingly – it was pretty funny,” he said. “He also talked about home and about Milwaukee.”
Trunzo said his family sat five or six rows back from the cardinals and the altar.
“We had a really unique vantage point in the shade of Saint Peter’s Basilica,” he said. “It was fantastic.”