The announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation has triggered a sudden interest in Rome. Online travel site lastminute.com has reported a 26 per cent increase in flight bookings to Rome in the last week since the Pontiff announced he was to resign.
Pope Benedict XVI is the first pope to resign in over 600 years and it seems that many people want to visit Rome to be part of the historic event. On the 27th February the Pope will give his official goodbye in St Peter’s Square and on the 17th and 24th he will give his last recitals of the Angelus from his iconic balcony.
Speaking about the surge in bookings to Rome, Mark Maddock, managing director of lastminute.com UK and Ireland said that “in just a week, we’ve seen a sudden surge in last minute bookings to Rome as people rush to see the Pope’s final recitals and the big farewell. This is clearly a historic event that many want to be a part of.”
Interest in Rome is expected to continue in March with the possibility of the new Pope being elected that month very likely. “A new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics could be elected as soon as Palm Sunday, on March 24th, and be ready to take over by Easter a week later,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.
The Papal Conclave, a secretive process that decides who will be the Popes replacement, is set to take place in March and voting will take place in the Sistine Chapel, which will be closed off from tourists until a decision is made. Tourists will still be able to visits the Vatican museums during this period and can visit the chapel as soon as the new Pope in announced.