I think to put this experience in words is not quite possible, at least for me. Let me just assure you that 300,000 Italian students, teachers, and parents showing up at the same time in the same place for an event that stars Papa Francesco is quite an experience, one that none of us will soon be able to forget. For lots of different reasons.
To kick off the event, La Chiesa per La Scuola, Pope Francis took a spin in his Pope mobile (top down) throughout the Piazza San Pietro and up and down the crowded Via della Conciliazione; the crowds went wild! We had been waiting for several hours, packed like sardines, by the time he emerged. We watched most on the big screen, except for those moments that Pope mobile passed our section.
We then had to wait another couple of hours as we heard speeches from politicians, teachers, and students, and we endured a host of other entertainers. The children were thrilled...ahem.
But boy do I love an Italian mob! Tired of the pre-game show, they spontaneously chanted "Fran-ces-co. Fran-ces-co. Fran-ces-co," over the other speakers. The last couple of speakers were met with groans from the pilgrims. It was Papa Francesco, after all, that we all came to see and hear.
Some photo essay style images from our day, once we reached our final destination on Via della Conciliazione, a stopping point that was determined completely by the fact that the mass of people just stopped moving forward:
I don't pretend to understand the politics of the church and the state in this country in regards to educating its youth. What little I do understand is...well...complicated. I can tell you, though, that those 300,000 pilgrims share a love and admiration for Papa Francesco that goes beyond politics. I do feel blessed that we were among them.