National Geographic : 1957 Apr
places near peasants from the Campagna and monsignori in purple cassocks. Many hold mirrors over their heads to get a better view of the altar. A signal, a blare of trumpets, a shouted order. Bronze doors open, and the Pope appears on a dais held high. For a moment there is silence at the sight of the tall tiara, the ornamented chair, the white and gold robe extending below the throne. Then starts a chant that continues during his progress down the aisle: "Viva il Papa, Viva il Papa..." "Papa, Papa!" The pale hand lifts again and again in blessing as men, women, and children stare in a breathless hush. Many are in tears at the sight of the quiet figure and the face they have known only through pictures. Some have saved money for years to come from far-distant countries. Now and then the Pope smiles at one or another. An American soldier cries out, and the pontiff bends forward with whispered word... Slowly the dais makes its way to the altar. From an unseen point begin the soft notes of the choir. Another hush falls as the cere mony begins. The Pope and his assistants move in intense light, and every movement is followed by the throng. The service is never long, and the slow recessional through the nave, to soaring music, brings more cries of "Papa... Viva il Papa!" The throng pushes its way out, 491 talking of the way the pontiff looked, the sound of his voice. In the piazza thousands stand, their eyes lifted upward, for they know that he will eventually appear in a small window of his third-floor apartment. A light goes on, the shutters are thrown back, and Pius XII is there to give his bless ings. Many kneel, and voices rise that must reach him as a faint echo in the approaching dusk. Then the blinds close. The crowds melt silently away. Halo Glows with Modern Light After that second beatification, on my final day in Rome, I left St. Peter's for a call at an American airline office. On the way I made out one outdoor shrine after another scores of them at street corners-elaborate or plain, of wood or alabaster. Each had its handful of flowers, brought by self-appointed guardians. These small points of worship are as much a part of Rome as the fountains, the stairways, the rows of pines, and St. Peter's itself. In the jungle of traffic, amid the forests of garish new signs, I wondered if those shrines would be lost and forgotten. At the airline office I found my answer. On the wall of a room fitted in chromium and leather also perched a tiny shrine-a modernized Madonna and Child in plastic, with circle of light in neon. As my friends had said, Rome modifies and it adapts. But it never stops being Rome.