Love thy neighbor

Pope leaves Basilica of St. John Lateran after meeting with clergy from Diocese of Rome

Pope Francis leaving the Basilica of St. John Lateran after a meeting with clergy from the Diocese of Rome Sept. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — There may be a slight change in protocol tomorrow when Pope Francis makes his first official state visit to Italy.

The traditional visit is held at the Quirinale the ornate Italian presidential palace in the heart of Rome that served for centuries as a papal residence until 1870, when the Papal States were overthrown and Italy was united.

Italian military police patrol around St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Members of the Carabinieri, the Italian military police force, patroling around St. Peter’s Square Feb. 21. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

The formal encounter is marked by colorful ceremony, pomp and pageantry.

The pope is typically escorted by Italian security from the border between Vatican City and Italy.  A military band plays as the pope rides slowly in a motorcade through downtown Rome, past crowds of cheering Romans, his car flanked by a squad of helmeted carabinieri police on horseback and motorcycles. There’s a quick pit stop at city hall to greet the mayor before taking off again up the hill to the 16th-century (formerly papal, now presidential) palace to meet with the Italian president and other dignitaries.


Pope Benedict XVI walking with Italian President Azeglio Ciampi during his first official state visit to the Quirinal Palace in Rome June 24, 2005. (CNS photo from L’Osservatore Romano)

Maybe to save money or to mirror Pope Francis’ more simple style, Italian officials said the motorcade will be significantly reduced tomorrow and the fancy plume-helmeted police will leave their horses back at the barracks. They also promised there would be some new features while still respecting the proper protocol for a visiting pope.

What’s interesting is the pope is the only head of state Italy still pulls out all the stops for.


Italian flags fly during a Sunday Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square in Nov. 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

When the fledgling republic was formed after 1946, Italy apparently drove every visiting head of state in a presidential vehicle, accompanied by police on horseback, for 12 miles from the airport to the Quirinale.

Over time the ceremonial motorcade was cut back to the last half-mile from Piazza Venezia, but even that got scrapped eventually because it caused (more than the usual) traffic snarls and irate commuters.

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4 Responses to Love thy neighbor

  1. hermittalker says:

    Glad they are still on friendly terms. These days the fact of the visit, not the pomp is crucial.

  2. Carol, do you have info on what the Pope’s attire would be? He is not going in just his white cassock, is he? He was underdressed at the last consistory with the Cardinals in their choir robes. If he is allegic to an ermine cape, is there another option? Maybe he can wear a nice coat if it is cold in Rome at this time.

  3. Carol Glatz says:

    Hi Gemma, we’ll see later today what Pope Francis will wear, but here is a rundown of the usual protocol:

    When the pope holds an official audience with a head of state or ambassador at the Vatican, the pope wears a white cassock with white sash, white zucchetto, rochet and mozzetta (a short shoulder-length cape).

    If the head of state is Catholic, then the pope wears a stole, too.

    The color of the mozzetta (white or red) depends on the time of year.

    The white mozzetta — with or without the ermine trim — is worn after the Easter Vigil until the second Sunday of Easter. However, Pope Benedict preferred wearing the white mozzetta until Pentecost.

    The red mozzetta is worn the rest of the year. Whether it is trimmed with ermine fur or not depends on the season. A red mozzetta with trim is worn from the feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria Nov. 25 through to the Ascension in the spring; the red mozzetta without trim is worn from the Ascension to Nov. 25,

    However, Pope Francis has not been wearing a mozzetta during head of state visits at the Vatican or the stole for Catholic dignitaries. So we should probably expect the same in the case,

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