Dress Etiquette for an Audience With the Pope

by Chip Marsden

As the leader of the Catholic Church, an institution with more than one billion members, the Pope is held high regard around the world and is as recognizable as the world’s most prominent celebrities and political figures. Because of his status, the Pope’s time is a precious commodity, and being granted a personal audience with him in a formal setting is a rare honor that very few people in the world can boast. Even the most devout Catholics will seldom, if ever, get that chance. In the event that such an opportunity is extended to you, appearance will be of high importance, so mind your dress and keep your thoughts on proper etiquette.

Style Guide For Men

When meeting the Pope, you should wear your best tie, shirt, pants and jacket. A suit is preferred. Polish your shoes. Wearing your best ensemble in such esteemed company not only shows reverence for the Pope’s position, but is basic etiquette for meeting any important cultural or political leader in a formal setting.

Style Guide For Women

Modesty should be of particular importance in this situation. A nice suit is appropriate, and so is a sleeved dress that falls below the knee.

Informal Settings

The rigid fashion etiquette outlined above is for situations where you’ll be personally meeting the Pope in a formal setting. It does not apply to all situations where you will be in the Pope’s presence. Watching the Papal motorcade go by is not cause for breaking out your finest garments, nor is attendance at a stadium Mass or any similar event.

Other Basic Etiquette

When the Pope enters the room, it is customary to stand and applaud. If he approaches you directly, getting down on bent knee as a show of deep respect is encouraged. When the Pope offers his hand, Catholics should kiss his ring. Non-Catholics may simply shake his hand. The only two acceptable forms of address are “Your Holiness” and “Holy Father.” When the Pope leaves the room, you are to stand until he has made his exit. With the right clothes and these basic pieces of etiquette in mind, you are well on your way to a dignified meeting with His Holiness.

About the Author

Based in Virginia, Chip Marsden has been a writer for more than eight years. He has covered film, politics and culture for regional newspapers and online publications. Marsden holds a B.A. in theater arts with a concentration in performance.

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