Rome Newsroom, Apr 14, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).
With 100,000 people cramming into St. Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday, the lines to enter the Vatican basilica have returned to their pre-pandemic wait times.
In light of the influx of tourists to the Eternal City, the Vatican has introduced a separate “prayer entrance” for Catholics who want to enter St. Peter’s Basilica for Mass, confession, or adoration.
The entrance, signaled only by a small sign, is immediately to the right of the barricades to enter through the metal detectors on the right side of the piazza.
Mountain Butorac, who leads small groups of Catholics on pilgrimages to Rome with his company The Catholic Traveler, calls the prayer entrance “long overdue.”
According to Butorac, it can take up to two hours of waiting in a long line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica during the peak tourism season.
“When I first moved to Rome, I was always going to Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s … but then standing in line for an hour and a half to go to Mass got old pretty fast,” he told CNA.
“We also do weekly family confession there and we always would have to go right at 7 or 8 a.m. And now we can go later in the day,” he added.
Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, said the prayer entrance was introduced during Holy Week on an “experimental basis.”
“In line with the Holy Father’s wish, we would like to restore maximum accessibility to the sanctuary for spiritual, liturgical, and celebratory life,” Gambetti said.
The cardinal expressed hope that the new entrance will “allow the faithful, prayer groups, and pilgrims to come to pray in St. Peter’s and participate in the sacraments easily, without waiting in long queues.”
The prayer entrance will soon lead to a “pilgrim path” designated by red velvet ropes that will guide people along the right side wall of the basilica, while the throngs of tourists and guided groups will remain in the main part of the basilica.
The new path will bring pilgrims past Michelangelo’s Pietà and the tomb of St. John Paul II directly to the chapel with daily eucharistic adoration and the back corner of the basilica reserved for confessions.
Pilgrims will also be able to access two of the chapels where daily public Masses are held: the Altar of the Chair and Altar of St. Joseph.
However, it appears that the Vatican is still coordinating the logistics of this prayer path after the soft launch of the new entrance during Holy Week, as the current prayer entrance merely drops pilgrims off at the front of the line to enter through security, essentially allowing those who wish to access the sacraments in the basilica an option to “skip the line.”
To enter, tell the security guard near the new prayer entrance sign that you are coming to the basilica to pray.
Elizabeth Hince, who lives near St. Peter’s Basilica with her husband and two young children, said: “We’re very excited to not have to get up at 7 a.m. to avoid the line when we want to go to confession or adoration!”
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