The Vatican Secretariat of State had specifically looked into changing the protocol, at Pope Francis’ request. As it turned out, the protocol was applied for the first time on the occasion of the visit by Argentina’s new President Mauricio Macri to the Vatican, where he attended an audience with Pope Francis on Saturday 27 February. From now on, Catholic heads of state in irregular marital unions will be able to meet the Pope along with their spouse and the latter will also be able to appear in official group photos when gifts are exchanged. Until today, in such cases, the husband or wife had to wait in another room and the Pope greeted them separately at the end of the audience.
Argentinian journalist Elisabetta Piqué was the first to announce the change in protocol in an article published by daily newspaper La Nación.
Secretariat of State sources confirmed to Vatican Insider that this change is in force as of now and applies to all Catholic heads of state on official visits to the Vatican. According to traditional protocol, only in cases of Catholic heads of state – being spiritual children of the Church – did the “regularity” of a marital state need to be take into consideration respecting Canon Law.
Argentina’s new President Mauricio Macri and his third wife, Juliana Awada, were the first to experience this change in etiquette. The decision was taken in light of something that occurred two years ago when a Latin American head of state who had married his wife in a civil ceremony met the Pope who then greeted the wife in a separate location. That was when he started thinking about changing the protocol that had been in place until then. In a statement about remarried divorces during his interview with journalists on the return flight from Mexico on 17 February, Francis said: “The key phrase used by the synod, which I’ll take up again, is ‘integrate’ in the life of the Church the wounded families, remarried families, etcetera.” The change in protocol is a small step in that direction. Source
The feeling out on the street these days is that Pope Francis will come perilously close to making one of his many errors binding on Catholics – perhaps his assurance to Protestants and atheists that they needn’t worry about salvation, no need to convert, or perhaps his confusing messages about marriage and the family (all shapes and sizes acceptable) or similar. The feeling out on the street is that this is likely to come about soon, and will provoke some major activity, either through the concerned members of the hierarchy or by direct divine intervention. This news of a change in Vatican protocol seems to support the voices on the street. IS this a significant change, or does it really not matter that much?