Over the Christmas holidays, many visitors to Rome have one goal in mind: how to see the Pope. (Note: This post has been updated to reflect 2018 dates and information!).
The brass ring of the experience is, of course, midnight Mass at St. Peter’s. While that’s a very, very special (if crowded) experience, it’s also tougher to book than a scavi tour. If you want to take a shot, then fax or write the Prefecture of the Papal Household at +39 06 6988 5863 with your information; here’s where you can find out how to book midnight Mass at St. Peter’s.
Keep in mind that this is best done at least a couple of months in advaance. By December, it’s pretty safe to say there won’t be any spots left—unless, that is, you’re in with a parish that can try to work their magic for you.
Luckily, though, there are other ways to get a glimpse of the Pope over the Christmas holidays. These include:
On December 8, see the Pope at the Spanish Steps. Each Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, the Pope goes to Piazza di Spagna in an act of homage to Mary (see photo at top… previous pope, same idea!). (Get there early to get closest to the column erected in honor of the Immaculate Conception, which is where the Pope will be for his blessing). It’s at 4pm, and no tickets are required.
Even if you don’t have tickets to midnight Mass, you can still attend. You’ll just have to stand out in the piazza and watch the ceremony on Jumbotrons; not quite the same, okay, but still pretty neat with thousands of people packed into the square. Just remember that it’s actually at 9:30pm, not midnight. (Pope Benedict changed it a few years ago, apparently wanting to get to bed a bit earlier, and Pope Francis has followed in his stead).
Go to “Urbi et Orbi” on Christmas Day. This is the special blessing the Pope gives the crowd — and gives all Catholics watching or listening through T.V. or radio worldwide — that happens only twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. The Pope appears at the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica at St. Peter’s Square for the blessing at noon. Tickets aren’t required.
Pray the “Angelus” with the Pope throughout December. For 2018, in December the Pope leads the faithful in prayer from his window at noon on Dec. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 31. For January dates, check here as we get closer. Tickets aren’t required.
Attend a Wednesday papal audience. The general audience will occur every Wednesday in December and January, as usual. Tickets are required (but free); send your information to the same fax number as listed above for the midnight Mass.
Get tickets to another Pope-led mass. In December 2018 and January 2019*, these include:
- Dec. 12: Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Peter’s Basilica, 6pm
- Dec. 24: Mass for the Solemnity for the Birth of Our Lord, St. Peter’s Basilica, 9:15pm
- Dec. 31: The First Vespers and “Te Deum,” St. Peter’s Basilica, 5pm
- Jan. 1: Holy Mass, St. Peter’s Basilica, 10am*
- Jan. 6: Holy Mass for the Epiphany, St. Peter’s Basilica, 10am*
- Jan. 12: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sistine Chapel, 9:45am*
*January 2019 details have not yet been released; when they are, they’ll be here. However, they’ll be the same dates and likely the same times and locations as what’s shown above.
Remember that, again, you need tickets for these Masses in advance. (For less popular ceremonies, you can turn up two or three days in advance and get them directly from the Swiss Guards, without having to fax in advance. Truly. But for special ceremonies like these, I’d recommend doing the advance booking).
If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.