Friday 26 May 2017

Papal Audience Protocol

Papal audiences have been coming up in the news lately. Meeting such an important figure must be nerve wracking. How are you supposed to behave? What are you supposed to wear? Luckily, protocol has been developed for such occasions. Clear expectations help to take a bit of the edge off of such anxiety-inducing meetings.

Unless you're one of the lucky few to whom le privilège du blanc applies, you are expected to dress in a certain way during a private audience. In The Church Visible, James Charles Noonan Jr. explains,
"Style and deportment at the Vatican, especially in association with a visit to the pontiff, has always been highly formal ... "Formal dress," ... for gentlemen is always the black business suit and black four-in-hand necktie. For ladies, this protocol would include the black calf- or knee-length dress with long sleeves or a black shawl that covers the arms and a black mantilla ..." (p. 203, Revised Edition) 
Here in the archives we managed to find a few photos of some Canadians lucky enough to have a private audience with a few Popes. Most of them seem to be appropriately attired:

A group visits with Pope Pius XII. Bishop Allen is seen to the left of the Pope.


PH 62/14P
ARCAT Photo Collection
Toronto Mayor Nathan Phillips and his wife Esther greeting Pope Paul VI. Doesn't she look elegant in her black mantilla?


PH 64/07CP
ARCAT Photo Collection

Mayor Phillips and Mrs. Phillips with Pope Pius XII.


PH 62/21CP
ARCAT Photo Collection

A group poses with Pope Saint John XXIII.


PH 63/12CP
ARCAT Photo Collection
 Also in the news recently was the ad limina visit to Pope Francis of the bishops of Ontario. In the archives we found an 1877 letter from the Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide with instructions for bishops during their visits.

Instructions for bishops when making their formal visit to Rome. Included are directions about what kind of information to prepare and who they need to talk to. Similar instructions are still provided to current bishops making their ad limina visit.


L RC60.08
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

Canadian bishops visit Pope Paul VI, 1965. Archbishop Pocock (coadjutor at the time) is second to the left of the Pope. These bishops are all wearing the ferraiolo (cape), but the bishops visiting this year dressed only in cassocks. Can you spot Cardinal Carter?


PH 14V/17P
ARCAT Photo Collection

So, if you're planning to visit Pope Francis, be sure to brush up on your protocol. There is even a dress code to just visit the Vatican, and it is strictly enforced by the Swiss guards. Knowing the rules ahead of time makes for a smoother and more enjoyable trip.

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