Pique n' your interest 

Faithful flock to Toronto

Hidden in the darkened recesses of my parent's basement, among the Christmas decorations, the "priceless" antiques and fading school report cards, is a pope scope.

For the Catholics in the crowd who have seen the Pope, you might know what I'm talking about.

The pope scope is a cardboard periscope, fashioned by some marketing guru and sold to the masses on any Papal visit.

Our pope scope has been in the basement for the past 18 years collecting dust since the last time Pope John Paul II came to visit Toronto.

I was eight at the time of that esteemed visit and, like the pope scope itself, my memories are a little faded. But I do remember the excitement and anticipation of the day.

My whole family drove the car to the subway and rode downtown (that in itself was big excitement), before heading out to a huge airforce base where the Pope was saying mass.

There were hundreds of thousands of others with the same idea, which required that his message be beamed across the crowds in big loud speakers. So while we couldn't actually see him during the mass, even with our handy pope scope, we could still hear him.

For the kids, the mass was more of a very long, very stationary picnic, complete with plaid blankets.

There were paper chairs for sale for those who couldn't sit on the ground, along with hundreds of others religious gimmicks set out on stands along the way.

Mass outside, regardless of who was saying it, was a treat indeed and a far cry from the vaulted cold church of Sunday morning.

The thing that stands out the most in my mind was not the words of wisdom from the Pope but rather his high-tech car - the Popemobile, a bullet-proof vehicle designed for his visits after an assassination attempt in May 1981.

We thought the Popemobile was great - not quite as cool as Kit from Knight Rider who actually talked but something far more interesting than dad's ancient Buick (although the Buick's eight-track kept us entertained on many a drive up to the cottage).

The Pope cruised through the crowds in his Popemobile after mass, waving to the hordes of the faithful.

Now he was actually close enough to see, even without the pope scope.

Everyone I knew was going to hear the Pope say that mass - all my classmates, my relatives and old family friends.

That just goes to show how small my eight-year-old world was at the time.

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