A Papal Mass is a Solemn Pontifical High Mass celebrated primarily by the Pope himself.
Traditionally the Mass is celebrated in Latin - the official language of the Universal Church that cuts across language barriers. Readings however are usually read in Italian, and/or English. Recently however, Pope Francis has decided to celebrate the entirety of the Mass in Italian which is unfortunate for English speakers or those used to the Latin who don't know Italian.
Papal Masses are celebrated on special occasions such as:
For a full list of the Papal Schedule click on the link.
Those attending the Papal Mass should arrive around 1-3 hours before the liturgy is due to begin in order to pass through security and ensure a good seat.
Obviously, the location of a Papal Mass relies on the location of the Pope at that time. During overseas visits, special occasions or matters of health, the Pope may not celebrate Mass publicly in Rome.
In normal circumstances however, Papal Masses are usually held at the Basilica of St Peter which can hold around 15,000 people. At times of more clement weather or when more people are expected, the Papal Mass is held in St Peter's Square (Piazza San Pietro) that can hold over 80,000 people.
However, there are a few notable exceptions with Papal Mass being celebrated in different locations under Pope Francis such as:
For all months except August (when the Vatican offices are closed), tickets are required for Papal Masses. TICKETS ARE ALWAYS FREE.
There are different types of tickets available depending on whether you are a dignitary, bishop, abbot, religious superior, priest, lay person, etc. Different types of attendees may be seated in different areas to assist with logistics.
If you need less than 6 tickets then you can simply ask the Swiss Guards for some. They have a stash of tickets explicitly for pilgrims who ask for them without a reservation. The Swiss Guard stationed at the Bronze Door (just to the left of the metal detectors of St Peters and then first right) have some to give out, as do the Swiss Guard at Porta Anna.
However, please note that the Swiss Guard will only have tickets for the Papal Mass the day before the event. Tickets will be given out from 3pm until 7pm the day before the scheduled Audience, and from 7am on the day.
For groups greater than 6, or if you wish to reserve your tickets in advance, you have 3 options.
For those attending events that are likely to be very popular, such as Midnight Mass or the Easter Mass, then you should attempt to reserve your tickets between 2 and 6 months before the Mass is scheduled to take place. The smaller the number of tickets requested the higher the chance of having your request granted so we suggest don't book extra tickets unnecessarily.
Tickets DO NOT necessarily guarantee entrance or a seat. When the church / square is full access will be denied even with your ticket. Only your arrival time with a ticket will guarantee your access so come early.
TICKETS FOR THE PAPAL MASS ARE ALWAYS FREE.
Just as in any church, people should dress modestly. This is important in Rome and the Vatican because those who attempt to gain admittance to churches or liturgies in inappropriate dress will be denied admittance. The likelihood of this is also extremely high for the major Roman churches and for Papal liturgies.
As a general guideline, Woman Should:
As a general guideline, Men Should:
At every Mass, a priest re-enacts the very first Mass that Jesus performed at the Last Supper, and in so doing, consecrates unleavened bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Jesus Himself - the Lamb of God.
Receiving Holy Communion therefore is the Passover Meal of the New Covenant - perfected from the old covenant Jewish Passover meal, and is the communion of the recipient with Jesus, and the rest of His Mystical Body (the Church), in a physical as well as spiritual union.
For many, this is a difficult belief of Catholics for non-Catholics to accept. The disciples explicitly recognise that people would find this core Catholic faith (dogma) difficult when they said "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (John 6:60), but Jesus was clear when he said "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:51) and "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." (John 6:53-56).
When people left Jesus because of their lack of faith in this teaching of Christ, it was Peter - the first Pope, who said "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68), and now, the successor of Peter, Pope Francis offers the same Eucharist to us, that all may believe and have life within them, eat this new fruit of the tree of the cross and not die.
The reception of Holy Communion is therefore a profound event. It is a union with the God-Man, and it is a union with His Mystical Body - the Catholic Church. Therefore ONLY Catholics without the stain of mortal sin may receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Please be vigilant for those who dishonestly or ignorantly receive Holy Communion and seek to take away the host and not consume. This is a deeply grave act.
To know and understand more about what Catholics believe, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church which sets it out in detail.