By Mark Abrams
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As the Vatican prepares for the conclave, many take to the skies to be their first-hand.
Father Tim Byerley, is assigned to Holy Eucharist Church in Cherry Hill, but is leading a group of 19 from the Domestic Church Media Foundation in Trenton to Rome. The organization operates Catholic radio stations in Trenton and Freehold.
Father Byerley says the group includes residents of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“It just happened that our pilgrimage that we planned months ago has fallen on the same time as the papal conclave and so we’re fortunate we see it as a gift from God, a providential gift from God.”
Byerley says it’s an extraordinary time to be in Rome to be an eyewitness to history.
“For a Catholic, it’s not only once in a lifetime but it’s not even once in a lifetime. It’s very rare for anybody, even priests, it’s very rare.”
Byerley says the group is looking forward to the election and the first Mass of the new pope.
A group of students from Texas heading through Philadelphia on their way to Rome this weekend are getting something extra on this trip – a front-row seat to history.
A group of Latin language students from McCallum High School in Austin, Texas, flew into Philadelphia Saturday to make a connecting flight to Rome with their teacher and chaperones.
Adam Freng, a tenth-grader, says the class has been planning the trip since last October.
He says then came news Pope Benedict XVI was resigning and the papal conclave to elect his successor would be held while they were there.
“I mean, it’s a once in a lifetime chance and not many people get to experience it. And it just kind of fell into my lap. So, I’m pretty excited.”
Aaron Malek, a senior, says actually standing in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday when the cardinals enter the conclave will be a time he will never forget.
“I’ll get to see like how big it really is, a first-person view of it. I’ll remember it for a long time.”
And, Malek says, it doesn’t hurt that their Latin skills might be helpful in understanding the prayers and chants as the princes of the church head into the Sistine Chapel.