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How to Treat the Pope Properly

His Popeness

Photo: Getty Images

Last night we had a nightmare in which we were introduced to the Pope, and all we could think to call him was, “His Popeness.” We don’t know where that came from, but we knew it was wrong. So we got in touch with Pastor Richard Baker, the director of the Cathedral of St. Patrick’s Young Singers — a group of seventeen children, ages 10 to 16, who will perform for the Pope when he arrives in New York tomorrow — and asked him to tell us what he told the kids about how to behave, should we find ourselves in his divine presence, and a few other burning questions as well.

What do I do if I get into a situation where I actually meet the Pope?
If you have the chance of actually coming to him one-on-one — which, of course, you probably won’t, but just in case that happens — it’s customary to kiss the ring upon the finger of his right hand. And then address him as “Your Holiness.” Not “Hey Pope” or “Hello Pope.” “Your Holiness” is how you refer to him all the time: “Thank you, your Holiness,” “It was a pleasure to meet you, your Holiness.” Or you could refer to him as “Holy Father.” “Holy Father, may I ask you, what did you have for breakfast this morning?” You know. You always refer to the pope as “Your Holiness” and “Holy Father.” After that, the Pope will probably speak to you first, and then you would respond to him, and feel very relaxed at that point. Once the sense of protocol is done, you can think of him as your priest. You should respond to what he has to say. He may say, “Your music was beautiful,” or he may say something about himself.

So I can ask him questions?
He is very much open to everyday stuff. You may have something special you would like to ask him. Let’s say one of your grandparents is sick, or one of your brothers and sisters, the Holy Father would be very open to hearing that. You could say, “Holy Father, could you please pray for my grandmother?”

What about touching the Pope?
You can touch the Pope, in terms of taking his hand.

Who will he hang out with while he is here?
He’ll be traveling with his personal secretary and a number of Vatican officials. Remember, he comes as Head of State. So both arms, the church and the state, will be coming with him. But I don’t think his entourage is that large. He’s a priest, you know. He travels light. —Arianne Cohen

How to Treat the Pope Properly