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Answered 2007-09-22 17:47:26

Short of being a cardinal, archbishop, or bishop, or a member of the pope's staff, a private audience with the Pope normally requires a request or letter of introduction from one's bishop and the acceptance of the invitation by the pope or the pope's staff. My understanding is that this was the general policy during the reign of Pope John Paul II. When I met John Paul II it was in the context of his morning Mass at the Apostolic Palace followed by a brief audience with all of the attendees afterwards. (Even though we were not 1-on-1 with the pope, I believe this is considered a 'private' audience as the meeting did not take place at, for example, the 'public' Wednesday audience.) I was among a group of seminarians who had asked our bishop to write a letter some 3-4 months before our trip. I seem to remember that in the letter we needed to indicate where we were staying in Rome (phone number), so that we could be reached if/when we were chosen to come over. The evening of our last night in Rome, we were called at the hotel and told to be at the bronze doors at 6:30am. I seem to remember that we needed to have our passports and that there was a security screen of some type. After about 1/2 hour - 45 minutes, we were lead up several grand stairways, through a courtyard, up some more stairs, and through the palace to the ante-room at the papal apartment. There we vested for Mass and were given some basic protocol instructions by Msgr. Dziwisz. We seminarians were handed some mimeographed books (marked "English"?) and asked to sing at the Mass. (The music was not very good, as I recall... shockingly lousy 70's/80's stuff, surprisingly.) The papal photographer and Swiss Guards are present at all times. No doubt, there is a dress code, but all I know is that bishops/priests and seminarians were expected to be dressed in clerical dress appropriate to their rank. It seemed everyone else was wearing black business attire (it looked like a Blues Brothers convention or a mob movie, I am not sure). I don't remember if the women were veiled, although I seem to remember there was some protocol about that. While we were there as "pilgrims", I suppose, "business" meetings with the pope presumably follow the same basic protocol for arranging them... a letter from your bishop and an invitation from the pope's staff. When he was healthy, JP2 was reported to be in constant motion, meeting with people all day long, including at meals. My understanding is that Pope Benedict XVI does not typically invite visitors and pilgrims to his morning Mass as John Paul II did, and my impression from various news reports is that he does not hold nearly as many "business" meetings as his predecessor did, either. Benedict seems much more an introvert, preferring to allow more 'business' to take place at the hands of his underlings... this is the good practice of 'subsidiarity' within an organization. Of note, most 'business' can and should be done with the various dicasteries, commissions, and offices of the Vatican and need not go directly to the pope. A wise piece of advice would be to make sure that any 'business' take place at the lowest point possible in the 'chain of command' before asking to see the pope. The only meetings which the pope is required to have, it would seem, are meetings with the worlds' bishops every 5 years, called "ad limina" visits. The various bishops of the world are on a rotation where they come at 5 year intervals. At these meetings, a group of bishops across a territory come to Rome and meet the pope and the various offices of the Vatican. At some point, each bishop gets a small bit of time (10? 15? minutes at least) to tell the pope about his diocese and the work going on there.

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Unless you are a ranking government official or high ranking member of the clergy it is unlikely that you will get a private audience with the Pope. He is quite busy and would not have time to visit with every casual visitor to the Vatican.

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No. Audience is a noun (collective noun for observers, or a private meeting).

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