ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE - The Philadelphia police -- or at least whatever combination of police were assisting the Vatican news corps, since law enforcement agents came from around the state for the pope's visit -- made up for a tense standoff with the media on Saturday at Independence Hall by giving a royal departure on Sunday.
After leaving the pope's Mass Sunday following his homily, the Vatican news corps was escorted by a convoy that included a half-dozen police on motorcycles with blue lights flashing, along with marked and unmarked cars that also had their lights flashing.
They even shut down a major three-lane highway at an entrance ramp so we could get on quickly. Cars that had been zooming down the highway were literally stopped in their tracks so we could get to the airport before the pope.
On Saturday, police initially kept the news corps from leaving the Independence Hall area and almost made media members late for a festival along Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
After the 45-minute news conference aboard the flight back to Rome, journalists frantically divided up questions and answers to translate from the Italian or the Spanish the pope spoke into English for the English-speaking reporters.
As each journalist finished his or her question, they gave it to the journalist who was in charge of compiling the unofficial transcript. But then her computer ran out of power -- and there was no power outlet on the plane.
She and others spent more than an hour trying different methods to inject it with power. Meanwhile, time was ticking by and the pope's plane would be landing soon -- and journalists needed to get out the news.
They finally figured a way to power it from another computer, and soon a flash drive with the transcript was passed around.
The plane landed, we got off and went into the passport control area in Rome. Suddenly, the groggy journalist in charge of the transcript realized she had never gotten back her passport from the Vatican press aides who kept them during the trip and handed them back during the return flight.
Panicked, she and colleagues tried to call the Vatican aides. They finally located one, and she got her passport back.
The journalists from around the world who accompanied the pope on his historic trip to Cuba and the United States were bleary eyed after the overnight flight from Philadelphia, and the entire 9-day, round-the-clock, whirlwind journey.
Most wanted to file their stories and go home or to their hotel to sleep.
And the 78-year-old pope? He went to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome to pray and thank the Virgin Mary for his trip.