VATICAN CITY — When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met Pope Benedict XVI this morning, there were no reporters present.
Although Vatican protocol allows for five journalists and an equal number of photographers to witness papal meetings with heads of state or heads of government, British rules trump the practice when minors are present.
Brown, who turns 58 tomorrow, was accompanied to the papal audience by his wife and their 2-year-old and 5-year-old sons.
The only media representatives present were the Vatican’s own. L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, is expected to release photos of the pope and Brown, but pictures of Pope Benedict with the whole Brown family will be given only to the prime minister.
After the meeting, Brown met with a small group of reporters — but not photographers — and said, “I’m very grateful to the pope for inviting my wife Sarah and my children as well.”
He said he would remember fondly the pope’s “very kind disposition to very young children who were in his presence.”
Brown is visiting Italy as part of his preparation for hosting a meeting in April of the G20 — a forum of representatives of the world’s major industrialized nations and key developing countries. The April meeting is expected to focus on concrete ways to stimulate the global economy and examine mechanisms to guarantee greater responsibility and accountability in financial markets.