Rome gets ready for Pope’s goodbye

The total traffic block in Rome, programmed for Sunday 17 February, has been called off to allow pilgrims and well-wishers to get to St Peter’s Square for the papal Angelus.

The Pontiff says the Angelus every Sunday at 12.00 from his window looking out over St Peter’s Square. The event always draws a good crowd but this coming Sunday, the first since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, is expected to be much larger than usual. It is the last but one Sunday Angelus before Pope Benedict leaves office on 28 February.

The city had previously planned a no-traffic day throughout Rome on Sunday from 08.30-17.30.

Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno has already set up a special task force in his cabinet to handle the events from the departure of Pope Benedict XVI to the election of the new pope. He has also written to the prime minister asking for the necessary financial and security support to handle what will be a much longer inter-regnum than usual.

During April 2005, from the death of Blessed Pope John Paul II to the election of Benedict XVI, over four million pilgrims came to Rome. This time the unusual nature of the event - a pope has not resigned in 600 years - combined with the fact that this coincides with the period of Easter - means that the city is once again planning for large numbers.