Clothes encounters of the pope kind

Clothes encounters of the pope kind March 12, 2018

From The Catholic Herald, Father Raymond de Souza looks at the Holy Father’s sartorial style—and how Francis has put his own imprint on the papal wardrobe:

Pope Francis’s decision to set aside the mozetta and wear the same thing all the time – whether at breakfast at Santa Marta or solemnly blessing the world at Easter – was taken immediately. It indicated then that the Holy Father was comfortable acting independently of consultation with others, that an assertion of papal will would be made against traditional norms of deportment, and that gestures would be a key mode of papal leadership.

There are limits, of course, to how the pope might dress. It would be inconceivable to imagine the pope in a white suit, a businessman with a flair for the dramatic, à la Ricardo Montalbán in Fantasy Island. But for other senior prelates, this pontificate has marked a turn towards more worldly attire, with the business suit being the Holy Father’s preferred garment.

For example, the cardinals on the “C9” began meeting in their filettata cassocks, as was expected from any cleric in the presence of the Holy Father. I remember as a student in Rome that seminarians without their own cassocks would quickly borrow one if they were going to be presented by their bishops to the Holy Father. Now the C9 meets in business suits, where the pectoral cross can be discreetly hidden in a jacket pocket.

As the pictures from last month showed again, even curial priests and bishops on retreat with the Holy Father wear a business suit, though there are a recalcitrant few who wear their cassocks.

That a new expectation was in place was never more clear than in March 2017, when the newly elected prelate of Opus Dei, Mgr Fernando Ocáriz, was received by the Holy Father. The prelate of Opus Dei would not greet the sacristan in his chapel in anything other than a cassock, but he obediently appeared in a business suit to greet Pope Francis. He may well have had to borrow one, like seminarians once did for cassocks.

Does it matter? It is not of supreme importance, but it is important. Clothes may not make the man, but do reflect something real about him.

Read on for an explanation.


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