It was March 2005 when my friend Paula and I visited the Vatican. In less than a month, John Paul II would leave this world and the images that we captured would come to mean more to us than we ever expected. He was noticably absent from the vigilant blessings that occured when he was in resident. Knowing he was ill and hospitalized, we were afraid he might pass over while we were in Italy. You can tell by the vacant square in my pictures that there was no rush to get here. Three weeks later, there would be a different scene outside of the Vatican, as followers made the pilgrimage to pay their last respects.

Six years later, faithful Catholics are still calling his name.

Today, Pope John Paul II has taken another step forward toward sainthood. He was named ‘blessed’ earlier this morning in Vatican City. Many people question whether his inaction toward molesters within the faith attributed to the abuse of innocent children. I don’t and can’t answer this. All faiths have issues. All religions have those among them who will use their positions to satisfy whatever addictions they secretly possess; money, greed, sex, power, political influence, etc.

Whatever his faults, his good works and beloved words have made him a favorite within the faith. There is a feeling within St. Peter’s that removes any question of his authenticity as a man of principles and belief. I feel privileged to have been able to visit while he was still the Pope – the papa of his followers.

I’m sharing these pictures that were taken during my visit. I hope you will enjoy them. The majority were taken from the cupola at the top of the Vatican. One was taken of the inside of the cupola, where thousands of tiny tiles were laid to form designs. Breathtaking in person!

Of course, the Pieta – Michelangelo’s sculpture of the crucified Christ lying in his mother’s arms – is inside of St. Peter’s, now behind glass after a crazed man tried to hack it. My picture of it has a glare from the glass. There is also a giant bronze sculture of St. Peter, his foot extended for those who desire to rub it for luck or curative properties, can do so. It the only shiny part of the aged bronze statue. He is always pointing the way to Christ and to a higher spiritual realm.

Whatever your religious beliefs, or lack of, there is much to appreciate at the Vatican. The Sistine Chapel ceiling painting is only one of many artistic wonders and beauties. Italy has much of this within every nook and courtyard.

Pope John Paul II, rest in peace.

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