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Rome Reports

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2,000 years of experience: Vatican's intricate protocol serves as model for others


The oldest state in the world has a protocol that serves as a model for countries worldwide. The Vatican's protocols showcase a state with both religious and civil authority. Vatican reporter Andrea Gagliarducci explores the unique etiquette of the Holy See in his book entitled 'Pontifical Languages' written together with expert Stefano Sanchirico. 

ANDREA GAGLIARDUCCI
Vatican Reporter
Protocol indicates that the Pope is a head of state as he is the vicar of Christ. Everything the pope receives he does as the vicar of Christ. Everything in the papal ceremonies is used to show this.

2,000 years of history and experience means leaving nothing to chance, even in the smallest details. For example, the number of escorts for papal visitors depends on the person's rank. 

ANDREA GAGLIARDUCCI
Vatican Reporter
It's seven in the case of a head of state and nine in the case of a monarch. So just by looking at the number of Swiss Guards, you know if a king or a president is coming.

Protocol also plays a role in seating arrangements during meetings with the Pope at the Vatican.

ANDREA GAGLIARDUCCI
Vatican Reporter
When a head of state or king is present, the chair is in front of the Pope. This can clearly be seen in photos. In the case of a head of government, the chair is moved to the other side, but not exactly opposite the Pope.

One big change in pontifical protocol concerns a symbol of the pope's temporal power—his short cloak or mozzetta, something popes have worn for hundreds of years. 

ANDREA GAGLIARDUCCI
Vatican Reporter

The most striking thing was definitely that he never uses the mozzetta. He didn't even use it during his last state visit in 2015.

Pope Francis' selection of clothing shows a desire to distance himself from the glamour of the papacy. It's small gestures like this that showcase the intricate and detailed history of the Vatican. 

 A.O.

TR: KG