I understand this disease, Papaphobia, the fear of the Pope.
It's akin to stage fright.
Let me explain...
The year was 1984, September
Pope John Paul II was coming to Vancouver.
His motorcade would be coming up Burrard Street, after crossing the Burrard St. Bridge. The time, was 8:30'ish in the evening. It was warm.
Thousands were lining the street on both sides of the street, anticipating his arrival after all it's not to often you get to see the Pope in person.
The police presence was very noticeable. Burrard Street traffic had been diverted. We stood there for at least an hour as the crowds grew.
The excitement was growing with a carnival like atmosphere surrounding the whole affair.
The Pope Was Coming
The sun had gone down, it was getting dark.
First one police officer on a motorcycle, then two.
An unmarked car, six men with sunglasses, quickly drive by. The crowd began staring at the bridge, to the slight downgrade that could be clearly seen from anywhere on Burrard.
More motorcycle police.
More men in black.
Looking down Burrard from Robson Street we could see the first of the Pope's entourage cross the bridge and coming our way. Then another. Spaced, paced, there was no stopping from Vancouver airport where he arrived to his hotel, The Pan Pacific. As one after the other came over the bridge, five or so, we could see the top of the Pope Mobile. The bubble, lit like a star. A Magi from The Gospel of Matthew, "Wise men from the East." A shining star, a beacon. My jaw dropped. I froze. Everyone around me froze.
Air seemed to stand still. It grew warmer as it approached. The crowd suddenly grew so quiet you could hear a pin drop, (excuse the cliche stale) but here we were in the centre of the city and:
"You could actually hear a pin drop."
Motorcycles what motorcycles. We saw them, on both sides of the Popemobile. There was no noise.
All eyes were glued to the White, modified vehicle as it neared. A beacon glowed, on it's roof. You could see the Pope. Like an angel.
"He's coming." Someone yelled from across the street.
It took a good minute for his motorcade to reach us. As it approached you could see the Pope.
There was absolutely no noise.
He passed, sitting on a throne built into the Pope Mobile. Also built into the Pope Mobile were a thousand spot lights all directed on him. He was on fire. A glowing ember.
The moment only lasted nano seconds as he passed. He was bigger than life, his head actually looked bigger than normal, with a tiara that would make Tyra Banks envy. He looked like a wax figure, shiny plastic, he wore make-up, or just had a facial, anyway which way, he glowed. I swore I even saw a halo. Others said they saw the same.
He was sitting up high, donning a long white bulky gown with gold trim that matched the humungous tiara, looking down but straight ahead, one arm up waving.
The feeling, if you could call it that, I would have called it an experience, to be about thirty feet away from the Pope. My stomach, churned. I wanted to be sick. Others around us felt the same.
The Majestic'ness of the Whole Affair or his Highness, his Excellency, or whatever you want to call him. I was left breathless and I'm not even Catholic. I honestly thought I was going to faint. I wasn't alone, everyone around us felt the same. It's a moment engraved in my memory and I'll never forget it. An almost supernatural experience.
It was one of the weirdest experiences I have ever felt. I couldn't explain it. Papaphobia? Could it spread throughout a crowd.
No wonder he is called His Majesty.
He was Majestic!
After that, I'd be terrified to have an audience with the pope. Not that he is scary, it would be more like having stage fright.
Maybe I am Papaphobic? I'm sure I'll never be seeing another Pope again in person in my life, but if by chance I do. I'll face my fears. We'll meet. I have a lot of questions to ask.