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Smile and Shake His Hand--but Don't Call Him Pope

September 13, 1987|PATT MORRISON | Times Staff Writer

The odds of it happening to you are about as good as the Dodgers' chances of playing at .500 this year.

But if you find yourself in a position to greet the Pope in person during his 48-hour Los Angeles visit, the casual standards of etiquette that would hold at, shall we say, a beach volleyball game, are not exactly the way to deal with the Vicar of Christ.

Pope John Paul II is a Pope in motion, and he has been known to dip into a crowd on the spur of the moment to press the flesh among the faithful.

On his Popemobile motorcade through Los Angeles, however, such a personal touch may be problematic. "I don't think he'll come out of the Popemobile," said Father Terry Fleming of the Los Angeles archdiocese, one of the principal planners for the pontiff's visit to Southern California.

If he does--or if, as is more likely, he walks about at one of the two Masses to be held here and spots an interesting clutch of people he would like to talk to, "he will wander over to certain groups here and there and just shake hands," according to Los Angeles Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, who as head of the nation's most populous archdiocese has met the Pope a number of times.

It would be fleeting contact at best. "I think if you've ever seen him on a papal audience, you see most people just really only shake his hand, and there really isn't time to kiss his ring, or you can't even get that close," Mahony said in a recent interview. "If you get your hand to his hand, you're doing good."

"If he offers the ring, you then kiss it," Fleming said, "but many times bishops do not offer the ring anymore.

"You greet him like I'd greet you. Shake his hand. . . . Just be friendly and smile."

Still, even on this casual coast, where one does big business with people named Chip and Bunny, the Pope rule is, titles only--no names, and definitely no nicknames.

"We usually refer to him as 'Holy Father' or 'Your Holiness'," Mahony said. "We don't say 'Pope.' "

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