The visit of the King William Alexander and Queen Maxima was not an official state visit, but a mere audience, and so an exchange of honorifics would not ordinarily to take place. However, the presence of the royal family, and the solemnity of returning of the Dutch scepter, might have suggested to the Secretariat of State a protocol designed to highlight the audience, including the conferral of honors, a Vatican source explained to CNA.
In some cases, the Vatican can ask not to proceed with an exchange of awards or honors, especially when some of the members of the other delegations can be controversial, a source close to the Vatican diplomatic service told CNA Jan. 15.
However, the exchange of decorations took place during the Dutch visit.
The presence of Ploumen in the Dutch delegation has sparked controversies because she is an abortion advocate.
In 2017, Ploumen launched an international campaign to support abortion, designed to counter the Trump administration's decision to cut off funds for NGOs that facilitate abortion. Ploumen's organization, named "She Decides," collected nearly $400 million.
However, news of her award did not grab any headlines until Ploumen herself showed off the medal in a recent interview to the Dutch television BNR.
In the interview, the Dutch politician presented the decoration as a personal award, and said that while her the pro-abortion campaign ""was not mentioned" as the reason for the decoration, but, she said, "the Vatican knows that I founded 'She decides', but this did not prevent them from awarding me."
"It is interesting," she added.
The honorific was apparently given without significant previous consultation. In a statement released Jan. 15, Cardinal Wilhelm Ejik, Archbishop of Utrecht and Primate of the Netherlands, stressed that he "was not involved" in the process that decided "to give the decoration of Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order St. Gregory the Great, which the former minister Ploumen received last year."
Cardinal Ejik said that he had not initially been aware that the decoration had been given to the minister.
Established in 1831, the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great is one of the five orders of knighthood of the Holy See, and can be bestowed to Catholic men and women, but also – in rare cases – to non Catholics. The honor is a recognition of personal service to the Holy See and to the Church.
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