(Vatican Radio) Sean-Patrick Lovett who heads the English Programme of Vatican Radio is currently in Rio de Janeiro reporting on the Apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Brazilian nation on the occasion of the XXVIII World Youth Day. He, and others, watched in amazement at the pictures of the Holy Father's car trying to make it to the official opening ceremony. He ended up taking a helicopter instead. Here is Sean's report:
Heads were shaking in disbelief – and other heads will surely roll – after the Pope’s unscheduled drive-about through the centre of Rio on Monday afternoon. It’s true that the 40-minute trip from the airport to the Cathedral was unplanned, but it’s also true that the motorcade mistakenly took the wrong route and ended up being blocked by congested traffic. People quickly swarmed around the car and moments of high tension followed as security agents tried to control the swelling masses that, at times, looked like they might engulf the vehicle completely.
Only after he transferred to an open jeep, did his drive through the city regain the tone of dignity and celebration that allowed Pope Francis himself to relax and greet the enthusiastic crowds with his characteristic warmth and spontaneity. By the time he reached the Cathedral, hundreds of thousands of people had poured out into the streets, determined to give him an authentic Latin American welcome.
That welcome took on stately tones when the Pope reached the Governor’s Palace at Guanabara for the official ceremonial greeting. This time he travelled by helicopter – which solved the traffic issue and allowed him a spectacular view of Rio-by-night. It also helped the organizers pick up some time as the Holy Father’s program was already running one hour behind schedule.
A side-effect of that papal delay was that the Vatican Press Office Director’s press conference also started an hour late – to the consternation of some very travel-weary, jet-lagged journalists who were hoping he would give them the headlines they so desperately needed to trump the story of the royal baby.
Responding to journalist’s questions, Fr Lombardi began by down-playing the motorcade escapade, adding that it was the Pope’s secretary who was upset while Pope Francis appeared to be enjoying himself.
He also revealed two other pieces of behind-the-scenes information. Firstly that, during their private conversation at Guanabara Palace, the Brazilian President had expressed her admiration for Pope Francis’ speech on the island of Lampedusa two weeks ago.
Secondly that, during the flight from Rome to Rio, the Pope spent 15 minutes chatting to the pilots in the cockpit – long enough for journalists to begin wondering who was actually flying the plane. I wonder what the royal baby would have to say about that…