I've been researching some historical details for a painting, a search which takes me through many websites and books in my personal library. I was specifically looking through some books on Pope Pius XII to find a photo of him as a seminarian, and came across my copy of Sr. Marchione's Pictorial Life of Pius XII.
I distracted myself with all the photos of Papal grandeur, now nearly completely absent from Papal ceremonies. As everyone knows, since Vatican II, very much has changed - and since the election of Pope Francis - it is changed for good. Popes are no longer 'prisoners' in the Vatican, slaves to courtly custom and ceremonial tradition, and so on.
I have a personal devotion to Pius XII, yet looking through the photos, one cannot help but notice that everything in the Papal court was very stiff and formal, if not forbidding. Even during the papacy of Paul VI, royal protocol remained intact - there was a definite distance enforced between the Holy Father and ordinary people. Pope John Paul II helped to change all of that in and through his travels, World Youth Day, the Wednesday audience, and so on. Pope Benedict continued in that vein as well. His taste for traditional vestments and liturgical decorum never seemed to me to present a distancing of his person from personnel or visitors, diplomats or pilgrims. I never felt Pope Benedict intended a return to courtly protocol or royal decorum. It seems to me this was demonstrated by his rejection of the papal triregnum as well as the sedia gestatoria, not to mention his fidelity to the celebration of Mass in the Ordinary Form.
Nevertheless, Pope Francis, in a very short time, seems to have finally extricated the papacy from the royal trappings which enveloped the Petrine Office.
I can't imagine going back.
(I found the photo of Pius XII I was looking for, BTW.)