It’s back to the future. Again.
Bishops, priests and religious should wear the formal long robes of a cassock during most occasions when visiting Rome, a high-ranking Vatican official has said.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, made the request for the formal dress in a letter released during last month’s Synod of Bishops.
It came at the bequest of Pope Benedict XVI, reports a posting at veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister’s site at the Italian newsmagazine l’Espresso.
Bertone’s letter, first made public Monday but dated Oct. 15, asks bishops and cardinals “kindly to guarantee” the observance of a 1982 letter by Pope John Paul II on the matter.
That letter, written by the deceased pontiff to the then-vicar general for the diocese of Rome, asked that priests wear the more formal dress as a “distinguishing mark” which contributes to “the beauty of the priest in his external behavior.”
Bertone, according to a translation at Magister’s site, asks the bishops and cardinals to recall “the duty of wearing regularly and with dignity the proper habit, in every season, partly in obedience to the duty of exemplarity that is incumbent above all upon those who render service to the successor of Peter.”
“The very example of those who, sealed with the episcopal dignity, are faithful to the daily use of the cassock proper to them, during office hours, becomes an explicit encouragement for all, including for the Episcopates and for those who visit the Roman Curia and Vatican City,” Bertone writes.
Magister’s posting, meantime, has these fashion notes:
The cassock obligatory for cardinals and bishops during office hours. Cassock or clerical dress for priests and monsignors. Specific habit for religious, always and in every season. And for ceremonies in the presence of the pope or during official meetings in the Roman curia: “abito piano,” or cassock with cape, for priests, embroidered cassock for monsignors, and cassock with embroidered cape (called a “pellegrina”) for bishops and cardinals.