Receptions given by the pope to those having business with or interest in the Holy See
Audiences, PONTIFICAL, the receptions given by the pope to cardinals, sovereigns, princes, ambassadors, and other persons, ecclesiastical or lay, having business with or interest in the Holy See. Such audiences form an important part of the pope’s daily duties. Bishops of every rite in communion with the Holy See, and from every nation, come to Rome, not only to venerate the tombs of the Apostles, but also to consult the supreme pastor of the Church. The master of the chamber (Maestro di Camera), whose office corresponds to that of grand chamberlain in royal courts, is the personage to whom all requests for an audience with the pope are made, even those which the ambassadors and other members of the Diplomatic Corps present through the cardinal secretary of state. He is one of the four Palatine Prelates who are in frequent relations with the pope, and his office is regarded as leading to the cardinalate. The pope receives every day the cardinal prefect of one or other of the sacred congregations. At these audiences decrees are signed or counsel given by the pope, and hence, by their very nature, they are of no slight importance to the practical work of the Church. Prelates connected with other institutions either in Rome or abroad, generals and procurators of religious orders, are also received at regular intervals and on stated days. The days and hours of regular audiences are specified on a printed form which is distributed to all cardinals and persons whose duty and privilege it is to have such audience. This printed form is changed every six months, as the hours of audience vary according to the season. Audiences to sovereigns or princes traveling under their own names and titles are invested with special ceremonies. When the pope was a temporal ruler the master of the chamber, notified beforehand by the secretary of state of the proximate arrival in Rome of a sovereign, went, accompanied by the secretary of ceremonial, several miles beyond the city gates to meet him.
Returning to Rome, he notified the pope of the event, and visited the sovereign to acquaint him with the day and hour of the pontifical audience. Sovereigns of the highest rank, being considered as equal to the pope, sit near him during audience, under the same baldachin or canopy. The attendance of guards and chamberlains and court officials is always doubled when such audiences are given. In the ordinary audiences given to priests and lay persons the general practice is that they present a letter of recommendation from the bishop of their diocese, which is presented to the rector of the national college in Rome of the country from which they come. The rector procures from the master of the chamber the necessary card of admission. Amongst the instructions printed on this card are those regulating the dress to be worn on such occasion: for priests the cassock with a large black mantle (ferraiolone), such as Roman secular priests wear; for lay men, evening dress with white cravat; for ladies, a black dress with black lace veil on the head. On these occasions it is forbidden to present to the pope for his signature written requests for indulgences, faculties, privileges, or the like. Since the election of Pope Pius X there has been some concession in the matter of dress for the laity in public audience; apparently, in order that every “man of good-will”, non-Catholic as well as Catholic, who desires to see the pope may have his wish fulfilled. This has increased the number of persons received in audience, but it has lessened occasions for the pope’s utterances on various aspects of the tendencies of the time, which distinguished the audiences of Leo XIII and of the latter years of Pius IX, and which were statements that awakened profound interest.