A GLIMPSE INSIDE

The Associated Press Published:

Victor L. Simpson, Rome bureau chief for The Associated Press, reflects on his decades of covering the papacy:

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One thing that sets the Vatican apart from other places: You can't just stroll around and poke your head in everywhere.

As many as 18 million people pass through Vatican territory each year, but their visits are effectively limited to St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican museums. Aside from the Vatican's 492 residents and its 4,700 employees, everyone else needs a pass, even to drop by the Vatican pharmacy for medicine not sold in Italy (bring a doctor's prescription please) or to buy back copies of the Vatican paper at the offices of L'Osservatore Romano.

After all these years, I still feel a tingle of excitement to be let in through the Bronze Door, escorted past Swiss Guards in full regalia, and taken up to the pope's apartment on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace for a papal audience with a dignitary. These meetings have given a rare peek inside Vatican diplomacy.

-- Victor L. Simpson

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"Pope Live" follows the events of the final day of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy as seen by journalists from The Associated Press around the world. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest. Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.