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The #1 Secret to Have an Exclusive Photo With Pope Francis

Did you know that you can have an official photo with Pope Francis—courtesy of the Vatican?

If you’re about to participate in a general audience with Pope Francis, you’d surely want to have a souvenir photo—perhaps that moment when you manage to shake his hand or when he gives an affectionate kiss to your child.

Well, you’re in luck because Sfor, or the Osservatore Romano Photographic Service, is here to capture those precious moments for you! The Sfor has three regular photographers—plus any collaborators—who have a task to immortalize all events involving Pope Francis.

The Sfor Office

If you’re in the Vatican and are about to attend the general audience, you will be given a flyer with directions for purchasing any photos that will concern you. Once the audience is over, the Sfor will begin to download and work on all the shots taken—which can reach up to 12,000! (Read: Five Tips to Meeting Pope Francis)

Once done, the photos are made available for viewing and purchase at two in the afternoon. At this point, you can do two things: get copies from the Sfor office or order your photos online.

The Sfor headquarters is located within the Vatican Walls. You can get to the office by coming in from Porta Sant’Anna to Via del Pellegrino. The Sfor headquarters is open from Monday to Saturday. (Photos from Vatican Media)

If you choose to get your copies straight at the Sfor office, just follow the directions on the flyer and go directly to Sfor. Once you enter, you will find a series of computers where you can view all the photos from the general audience. You can ask assistance from the staff in finding and ordering the photos that interest you most.

How to Get a Copy of Your Photos

At the Sfor office, you will be asked to fill in a form that specifies your chosen photos and the number of copies you want to have printed. The photos are available in different formats, and prices start at 2 euros each. (Read: Married by Jorge: Couple Reminisces Wedding With Pope Francis)

The faithful visit the Sfor offices to select photos from the papal audience. (Photo from Vatican Media)

If you choose to have 15×22 and 20×30 formats, you will just have to wait for an hour. The rest of the formats, however, will take a day to prepare. If you opt to have your photos printed on a calendar or agenda, you will be asked to wait a couple of days.

Placing Orders Online

If you are pressed for time and cannot personally go to Sfor to order your pictures, you have a second choice which is to purchase them online. Go to the website and choose the photos there. (Read: A Tourist’s Guide to the Vatican City)

You may personally claim the photos at the Sfor office or have them delivered to your home. The latter option has a cost that varies from 10 euros up, depending on the destination. 

Photo Archives

All photos are preserved in the Sfor archive and can be recovered at any time, says Sfor director Don Sergio Pellini. “We have about six million frames starting from the early 20th century. A digitization project is underway but, as you know, these are long and expensive operations.” (Read: Vatican Archives Now Open to Researchers)

Video screenshot from EWTN YouTube channel

From the costs, Don Pellini is keen to underline some essential aspects of the Sfor. “In a certain sense, we operate in the context of the charity of Pope Francis,” he explains. “In accordance to his sensitivity and his example, our office tries to consider all the needs of the various internal dicastery, dioceses, and the most disadvantaged categories worldwide, such as the poor, the sick, the prisoners, disabled people, special cases that are reported to us, or populations affected by hardships of various kinds.” (Read: The Pope’s Charity Chronicles)

The Sfor also manages the rights of the Pope’s images: “We must avoid any type of undue exploitation,” adds Don Peillini. “Sometimes, we do not disclose some of them (photos) for various reasons. I take into consideration the sick or disabled, but also of the Pope—when a photo could appear harmful to his person or when it is he who asks that an event not be photographed, such as his meeting with the clochards in the Sistine Chapel.”


Text by Tiziana Lupi.

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