Sunday, November 10, 2013

Vatican Etiquette and Protocol

 
The privilege of wearing a white dress during hearings with the Pope is only granted to Catholic queens or Catholic spouses of Kings

Vatican protocol states that for papal hearings, women should wear long sleeves, formal black clothing and a black veil to cover the head. Since the 1980's, however, the dress code (tailcoat for men, black dress and veil for women) has become far less rigid.

Only in private hearings with the Pope are women required to cover their heads and wear mourning clothes. In hearings with the Holy Father, women are required to wear a dress with a sober cut and color, which should preferably be black, must never be low cut, it must cover the shoulders and the skirt part should be below the knee.  

At the end of the pontifical ceremony, the faithful are called to greet the Pope by kissing his hand, though Pope Francis recently bowed before Queen Rania of Jordon, who was visiting the Vatican with her husband, King Abdullah II, breaking once again with protocol that requires visitors to bow to him when they see him at the Holy See.  In March, Pope Francis kissed Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. "Never in my life has a pope kissed me!" she reportedly exclaimed, after becoming the first foreign head of state to meet with the new pope.

Flashy jewellery should be avoided: something discreet and elegant is fine.  If one has to choose, it is better to wear less than to overdo it.  In general, one should not exaggerate with accessories and these should not have any loud colors. It is important to remember to keep the head covered at all times.  The Pope should be always be addressed as "Your Holiness".

The privilege of wearing a white dress during hearings with the Pope is only granted to Catholic queens or Catholic spouses of kings. They are allowed to wear a white dress instead of the usual prescribed black. Currently, this privilege extends only to the queens of Catholic monarchies. 

When there was still a monarchy in Italy, the privilege was also granted to the Queen of Italy. Despite their being Catholic, the privilege does not extend to the Princedoms of Monaco and Liechtenstein. The wives of the presidents of the republic are not granted the privilege of wearing white. 

Many female leaders no longer choose to wear black during papal audiences. Neither Mary Robinson nor Mary McAleese, two female Irish Presidents, ever wore black during John Paul II's audiences, while Russia's first lady Raissa Gorbaciova wore a red dress to one of the papal audiences. Cherie Blair, the wife of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair sparked controversy when she wore a white dress to the audience held by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.


The Vatican carries its own dress code.  In brief;

  1. Ensure your knees and shoulders are covered as a sign of respect. Tank-tops, sundresses and short shorts are not appropriate attire and will not be allowed. Women can add to their outfits by bringing shawls or wearing tights.  Long sleeves and long pants are most appropriate for men.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes for walking. Many people spend the whole day on their feet while in the Vatican City. Preparation for one's comfort is important for when one is walking on the hard surfaces and waiting in line for great lengths of time.
  3. Italy and the Vatican City are extremely warm in the summer months and can be rainy in the winter. Pack clothing that dries easily and is lightweight. This will help if you do need to cover up during your visit.
From various sources including; The Vatican Insider, Wiki How, and "St.PetersBasilica"   


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia