It was a cool and windy morning Sunday when tens of thousands of us gathered in St. Peter’s Square and the neighboring Pius XII Square to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis and wish him a Happy Anniversary – the third anniversary of his election to the papacy.

As I walked around the left hand colonnade to reach the area where security was screening people, I saw massive numbers of uniformed police – more in the square and I could only imagine the same numbers around the right hand colonnade. I did not make it in time to go through security so I stayed in Pius XII Square, which was jammed, as you see in these photos.



An Italian youth group sang their hearts out on the edge of the square, singing many songs the crowd knew as well.


Huge cheers went up when Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study. We listened as he reflected on the day’s Gospel and then we joined him in the Marian prayer. Afterwards he greeted many groups of faithful present in the square and then announced that he had a gift for us – a small, pocketsize Gospel of St. Luke, which has been called “the Gospel of mercy.”


He urged us to “read it every day. This way, the mercy of the Father will dwell in your heart and you will bring it to everyone you meet.” He also announced that the people handing out the small booklets were volunteers from the ‘Santa Marta’ pediatric dispensary in the Vatican and a number of grandparents. “How deserving are grandfathers and grandmothers who pass on the faith to their grandchildren,” said Francis, again to applause.


He told us that on page 123 we would find a list of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy at the back. “It would be nice if you learned them by heart. This way, it would be easier to perform them. I urge you to take this Gospel because the mercy of God can work for you.”


The Pope then mentioned the huge numbers of people standing in the Pius XII Square and noted that they “could not get into St. Peter’s Square. They too will receive the Gospel.”


Actually that did not happen. The Gospels were distributed in the center of St. Peter’s Square, near the obelisk and never made it out to where we were standing. I had hoped to get a copy for a young friend who is interested in the Church and has a lot of questions for me. The last time such booklets were given out – the Gospel of Matthew – I gave him a copy and he was delighted and read it cover to cover.

Last evening at 6, I went to St. Peter’s Square to pray the rosary with the priests and seminarians of the North American College with the specific intention of praying for the Holy Father on his anniversary.