Meeting of The Pope and The President of the United States

Wait, What Did He Just Call the Pope?
June 13, 2008, Patrick Lyons, The New York Times

Um, the fellows with the red caps are the “eminences” . . .  Seven years into his tenure, it will no longer surprise many people to hear that President Bush is not the most formality-minded person ever to hold the office. The irreverent nicknames he makes up for the people around him are legend, and it is not unusual for him to err a bit on the casual side in diplomatic encounters that, in other presidencies, might have been protocol-ed to a fare-thee-well.
    Even so, an eyebrow or two arched today at the way Mr. Bush addressed Pope Benedict XVI on meeting him in Rome:
    “Your eminence, you’re looking good,” Mr. Bush said, the A.P. reported.
    We’re not talking about the Fernando-esque second clause, which was unobjectionably friendly if perhaps a tad over-familiar in tone. It was the “your eminence” part. That’s supposed to be how you address Catholic cardinals. Popes are “your holiness.”
    (It isn’t the first time Mr. Bush has put a foot wrong in pontifical etiquette. At a meeting last June, Mr. Bush appalled the Vatican hierarchy and created a small stir in the media by addressing the pope several times as “sir,” which was taken by some as a failure to show appropriate respect, though a blunder rather than an intentional slight.)
    In any case, the pope evidently did not succumb today to any temptation to respond to Mr. Bush’s errant greeting with a hearty “So are you, Governor.”

How did Bush address the pope?
June 19, 2008 by John Thavis, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Here’s an update for our earlier item about the pope’s walk in the Vatican Gardens with President Bush: It’s been reported that President Bush made a verbal gaffe by addressing the pope as “Your Eminence” during the visit, instead of the proper “Your Holiness.” For the record, that’s not really accurate. The president called the pope “Your Holiness” three times upon his arrival; he used the term “Your Eminence” when addressing U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, at one point telling the archbishop: “Your Eminence, you’re looking good.” Actually, that was not quite right, either, since “eminence” is used in addressing cardinals, not bishops. But no big deal.




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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

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Book Photo: Marc Goodman.