Phil Lawler on "the Pope Francis effect":
Still I have no question that this new approach represents a shift in the way Vatican officials view the papal office—a shift that Pope Francis is doing everything that he can to encourage. The “old” approach treats the Pope like an 18th-century monarch, and suggests that when he is in the room, everyone else present pales into insignificance. The “new” approach treats the Pontiff as an ordinary human being ... .
...Ready for another illustration of my point? Check out this report from Vatican Radio, on the Pope’s earlier visit with Catholic priests in Caserta. To be more specific, take a good look at the photo that appears on the top of the Vatican Radio report. Do you notice anything unusual?
I do. The Holy Father is sitting beside another bishop (I assume that’s Bishop Giovanni D’Alise of Caserta) at a small table. The Pope is not seated on a throne, not set apart, not alone on a raised platform, not even on a higher chair. He is seated beside his brother bishop as any other man might be seated beside a colleague at a business meeting. At first glance it seems so natural, and in fact it is. But again I can testify that in 20+ years of following news from the Vatican, I cannot recall similar staging for any public appearance by a Roman Pontiff. (source)
Nota bene: The option of the 18th century as a period of reference for a monarch who towers powerfully over the people, instead of the 16th century of Henry VIII or the 17th of Louis XIV, seems particularly odd. In the 18th century, the British sovereign gave up in favor of ministers almost all remaining power that the 17th century Parliament had not already claimed, Louis XVI would seem to embody the very demise of royal prerogatives -- and the last Pope who was an "18th-Century monarch", Pius VI, ended up without the Papal States and imprisoned by the French revolutionaries, having died as a prisoner in Valence. Humiliated, incarcerated, and dying in the hands of an anti-Christian power for refusing to give up his supreme Christ-given authority : in his end, Pius VI, the "18th-Century Monarch", embodied the Petrine spirit better than most popes.