Papa in Skopje, North Macedonia: May 7, 2019
In the prior days, there has been all manner of scurrying around to hide scars and give the city a facelift for Pope Francis' visit. Buses and billboards covered with a Pope Francis graphic advertised his impending visit. Foreign Nationals and Macedonians could apply for tickets to be within the barricaded sections closer to the pope. When I checked the website www.papa.mk, it was already too late for Foreign Nationals to apply for tickets.
Less than 1% of the population of North Macedonia are Catholic.
Some of the partially constructed buildings crowding Macedonia Square were draped with white fabrics. Even the fountain under the Warrior Who Cannot be Named was uncovered and cleaned.
To gain a flat space for guest seating, the Dancing Fountain was removed and large steel panels were installed in its place.
Almost everyday it has rained in Skopje, and the day before the visit was no exception.
Finally, the barricades were all in place around the city streets, the square and also along the pedestrian street to Mother Teresa's Memorial House and all the way to the City Museum.
On the big day, I woke to the sound of a couple of police radios just outside our apartment. At 6:00 in the morning, police officers were already stationed in our neighborhood and roads were blocked to traffic. Dan and I walked to Macedonia Square arriving around 9am. Persons holding tickets were already lined up to clear security. With no tickets, Dan and I found a couple of seats inside London-Trend Restaurant. London-Trend is right on the square and our seats allowed us to see the stage and the square in warm comfort while sipping hot chocolate.
|Waiting for Papa (Pope)|
|Pope Francis appears|
Back at our apartment, I continued to watch TV for Pope Francis' movement throughout the city. Just before 1:00 pm it looked like he was about to arrive at the nearby Roman Catholic Church, I grabbed my camera and joined the crowds around the traffic circle in front of the church.
|Last minute tidying up|
|Napping outside the medical tent|
After all that waiting and expecting the Pope to enter the front of the church, his motorcade of VW vehicles entered the traffic circle and continued straight onto a side street to enter at the back of the church.
|3:36 pm Pope Francis arrives|
|Free-range dogs taking advantage of no cars around the traffic circle|
|5:42 pm, Pope Francis's motorcade departs|
|The Papal Wave|
It was cold and windy all day, but we saw the Papal wave at close range. It was a big day for us and a big day for North Macedonia.