Pope Francis: Is This Seat Taken?

Tomorrow is inauguration day for Pope Francis. The ceremony will take place amid the pomp and splendor of a 2,000-year-old Church. The whole world will watch.

What sort of person is this man who will wear the shoes of Peter?

Evidently, some people are flummoxed because Pope Francis has been photographed wearing ordinary black shoes, and rather worn ones at that. Where, they ask, are the red shoes that signify the Apostolic succession? When I read the — to me — stunning amount of verbiage they are churning out over the shoes, I start feeling flummoxed myself.

The Pope’s shoes??? 

Of course, I’m only a convert. My sensibilities are different from those of cradle Catholics. I’ve learned on this blog that my sensibilities are also different from East Coast Catholics. I’m an Oklahoman. We have a more informal culture here. People here consider it a compliment when they tell someone not to “stand on ceremony.” We also have a vestigial frontier attitude toward those that do “stand on ceremony.” In Oklahoma, extreme formality is rudeness. It’s dissing, or as they used to say, “cutting” the other person.

So I’m having a little trouble processing this shoe thing. 

I certainly don’t want to disrespect someone else’s deeply-held feelings, but the only way the shoe thing matters to me is that I can’t figure it out. This man is the Pope. He could wear flip-flops, and he’d still be the Pope. Actually, flip-flops are probably a lot closer to what our first pope had on his feet than hand-crafted red leather shoes. I would guess that St Peter wore homemade sandals all his days.

It’s the spirit of the law that matters. We know that because Jesus told us so. Pope Francis stands in the shoes of Peter, even when he’s barefoot.

This video may give us clues to the kind of person this man the Holy Spirit has gifted us with really is.

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  • Will J

    I do not think the shoes, or clothes, or liturgy issues have to do with where you live or how long you have been Catholic. It is another artificial divide between some Catholics that does not need to be there.

  • Rick

    Like many things in the Church, the red shoes are a symbol: they point to the blood of the martyrs–especially St. Peter and the apostles. The Pope is the protector of the faith that led those men to be killed for the faith. We stand in the blood of the martyrs. A lot of people don’t like symbols and sometimes symbols become meaningless–but the red shoes are not an affectation, they are a poorly understood symbol.

  • Rick

    Speaking of symbols: when my wife saw the pictures of the Pope kissing the feet of a young man and another picture of a child with cancer, her first reaction was whether he should do that in light of the sexual abuse scandals. She thinks it looks perverted. If we were to wring all symbol and metaphor out of faith it would be sad.

  • Theodore Seeber

    I just saw an interesting linkage between the shoes and the Third Secret of Fatima. The idea is spreading that maybe because JPII survived, his assassination attempt wasn’t what the third secret is referring to. Pope Francis, like JPII in the early days, likes to be among the people. The Popemobile started *after* the assassination attempt.

    An interesting point, and if true, we could be praying one day to St. Francis of Rome, Pope and Martyr.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Oh for Pete’s sake Ted. Stop this kind of talk. Now.

      • Theodore Seeber

        Remove it if you wish. It’s badly worded.

        I should have just linked to the original and left it at that.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I knew it was just bad wording Ted. I shouldn’t have jumped at you. It just goes all through me when someone talks about harming the Pope.

          • Theodore Seeber

            Finally got around to finding the link. John puts it way better:

            If a bit on the traditionalist side, he’s right. Pope Francis’ behavior isn’t new, and it is dangerous in his current position. But I wouldn’t want him to change a thing. If he is martyred for it, well, that’s the price we all might end up paying for doing what is RIGHT and GOOD. Here’s hoping the red shoes, when he does find a cheap enough place to make them for him, aren’t a foretelling and are merely a symbol.

  • pagansister

    Personally, if Pope Frances wants to be comfortable in his shoes, then he should wear whatever he wants to wear. I know that Benedict wore red shoes, supposedly made by Prada, and I guess they were comfortable. Is the color of the shoes that important? This Pope chose not to wear the red cape with the ermine trim (don’t remember the name) when he was presented to the people, so perhaps Pope Francis feels more at home with less formal clothing—which includes the shoes too! :-)

    • Dale

      Although Pope Benedict’s shoes were custom-made, they weren’t Prada. Here is a recent news article about the papal shoemaker, who says making a pair of shoes for the pope normally takes about a month (since he does works on them as time allows.) However, he expects to be able to produce a pair of shoes for the new pope in 10 days, working day and night.


      Whether Pope Francis has provided his custom measurements for papal red shoes, I don’t know.

      • pagansister

        OK, Dale, I’m impressed—there is a papal shoemaker! Thanks for the info.

    • Theodore Seeber

      The red is what is important- the symbol of willingness to be a martyr. If it wasn’t for the other link already posted, I would have thought that maybe Birkenstock could make him a pair of red sandals that fit his name as well, and be a double symbol.

  • James Murphy

    Shoes. If I hear one more word about the blessed red shoes. For the love of…you’d think the Lord handed them to Moses on Mt. Sinai along with the Ten Commandments the way some people go on about the “symbolism” of the pope’s red shoes! Crime in Italy. The only thing they symbolize is that once upon a time the bishop of Rome became a very worldly prince and red shoes were de rigeur for imperial feet. It has nothing to do with the blood of martyrs or anything holy or sacred. They aren’t a “tradition”, they are merely an accretion.

    • pagansister

      James, for me is a fun topic, and it there is a symbolic side, so be it. :-)

  • Bill S

    My concern about this Pope is that he will over-stress the divinity of Jesus thereby alienating, among others, Islam. There is no telling what those people are capable of. Bennedict made a statement one time that set Muslims off. Francis, whose namesake got along with them, needs to acknowledge that when it comes to honoring God and not the “worldliness of the devil”, he has an ally in Islam. If he says that you either profess Christ or the worldliness of the devil, then he is insulting Muslims. He has to think long and hard on how much emphasis should be given to the divinity of Jesus, and when it is better to acknowledge one God common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    Richard Dawkins was asked if he would say the same of the Koran as the Bible. Not wanting to be an assasination target, he responded that he doesn’t know the Koran as well. Good response.