Pope will become the first pontiff ever to address the U.S. Senate and House Representative on September 24, and the Congress is bizarrely anxious about the event. House Speaker John Boehner limits the number of attendees allowed to hear the Pope’s speech. Those who were allowed, on the other hand, sought advice on proper conduct and behavior when meeting the Pope.
Panicky Boehner limits audience for Pope’s address in congress
Boehner is only allowing current members of Congress, delegates, the President and the vice president, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet heads, congressional officials and the officers of the House to listen during Pope’s address on September 24. Furthermore, only those he handpicked will be allowed access inside the chamber or in any other rooms around the House floor. As hinted, no former members of the Congress is allowed that day.
All pertinent rules regarding the pontiff’s trip to Washington is in black and white. According to the document, the limit on attendees “is necessary because there are concerns that attendance at the joint meeting for Pope Francis will exceed the capacity of the chamber to hold a safe and dignified event.”
Jumpy lawmakers clueless on customary respectful behavior in meeting with Pope Francis
Speaking with Bloomberg, Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest and the U.S. House chaplain, said that for the lawmakers to act properly in the presence of the pope, “directives are going to go out.” As Bloomberg pointed out, the lawmakers needed to know good manners and right conduct when the Pope is present in the room.
To help them in this seemingly daunting task, Bloomberg compiles past State Department protocol guidance and advice from Catholic church experts. The list advised for lawmakers to dress appropriately. There should not be any funky colors, only the basic dark colors. As is customary to women, they should not wear clothes that show their shoulders, elbows and knees.
Nobody is allowed to touch the Pope unless he gestures to do so, like extending his hands. Once approach by the Pope, the normal hand shake shall be given. For Catholics, kissing the pope’s ring is acceptable. The pontiff shall also be address to as “Your Holiness,” or “Holy Father.” Expressing displeasure with the speech is a big no, as well as standing ovations, clapping and booing.
All attendees are highly advised to sit properly. “If I were asked, my advice would be to please sit respectfully, as if you were in church — and as if you were in Catholic church. We in the Catholic tradition don’t go ‘Amen brother!’ We don’t do that,” Conroy told Bloomberg.
The protocols are simple, really. But as how Representative Alcee Hastings put it: “For a lot of members — they’re Americans, you know, and appropriate courtesy is not necessarily their cup of tea.”
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