The Spanish Audience
What struck me as odd was that Doña Sofía presented herself with head uncovered. (It also struck me as a bit strange that the King arrived in a two-piece business suit, rather than in a more formal uniform, especially since the Pope was in choir dress, rather than in the simpler white simar.) I remember that there was a bit of a comment about German opposition leader Angela Merkel's uncovered head during her meeting with the Pope during the recent World Youth Day gathering. And the Pontiff's aide, Ingrid Stampa, is always seen with a bare head. All of this makes me wonder whether Pope Benedict has himself relaxed the customary protocol that women should cover their heads in black (or, for Catholic Queens, in white) in the papal presence?Um, for what it's worth, it seems this Pope is just manifesting his conviction that it's not what others wear (or don't) in his presence that makes him the Pope. He's much more secure in his role than to put a disposable mantilla box at the door. And if you thought that Ingrid or Birgit throws one on every time they walk into the room, think again.
Full-dress (uniforms, the King's Pian order star and collar, white mantillas suspended from Spanish combs or tiaras, etc.) would have been apropos if the Borbons were making a state visit, but this was simply a private encounter between friends.
When Juan Carlos' heir, Felipe, visited John Paul with his new wife, Letizia on their honeymoon last year, jewels and uniforms were the order of the day as it was an official presentation. But this time, in keeping with the nature of the visit, there was no follow-up meeting with Sodano, no official entourage of nuncios or government officials, simply the royal courtiers. And the Queen even exchanged pleasantried with Benedict in German.
Lawler was on a tear the other day talking about church-state tensions in Spain and how they would overshadow this audience. In reality, it didn't matter a fig -- the Spanish monarch is an apolitical head of state, he can't go running back to Madrid and telling Bambi (Zapatero, the premier) what to do. And, again, it was a personal encounter. As The Tablet's Robert Mickens pointed out in May, when Benedict received a group of delegates to the Madrid archdiocesan synod, the Pope made absolutely no mention of hot-button social issues in the Spanish polity -- according to his sources, it was an intentional move.
Just a nice way to wind-down the summer....