The Red Papal Shoes – Walking In The Footsteps of Jesus

The Red Papal Shoes – Walking In The Footsteps of Jesus July 23, 2022

“Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey.” – Pope Francis

In the Catholic Church, the red color symbolizes blood and fire; the color also symbolizes martyrdom, sacrifice, charity, and love. The clergy wear red vestments and the altar is draped in red during the celebration of the Precious Blood of Christ, on Pentecost, on Good Friday, and on Palm Sunday. Red altar linen and red vestments are also used during the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross; it is also used on feast days associated with holy relics, and on feast days of martyred saints and the apostles. Red is also used at an Ordination or Confirmation Mass.

History of the Papal Shoes

Throughout Church history, we have seen Popes wear red shoes (Papal shoes). The papal shoes are made from red leather and the Pontiff wears them outdoors. The shoes are not a fashion statement, rather they bear symbolism in the Pope`s ministry. The red color of the shoes symbolizes the bloodied feet of Christ as He was pushed, beaten, and dragged along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Golgotha where He was crucified. By wearing the red shoes, the Pope shows that he is walking in the footsteps of Christ. The shoes are also a form of submission by the Pope as he submits to Jesus Christ`s absolute authority. In addition to this, the red papal shoes also are a symbol of the love of God for humanity as it is seen during Pentecost when the clergy wear red vestments to celebrate the descending of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire upon the disciples.

Red Papal shoes with a cross

Historically, the Pope wore three kinds of shoes. He had the red silk or satin papal slippers, which he walked in inside the papal apartment; there were the episcopal sandals, which he wore when he celebrated Mass in accordance with the liturgical colors; then there were the red leather shoes, which he walked in outdoors.

Traditions have since changed from one Pope to the other. For instance, Pope Paul VI removed the distinct embroidered cross from the shoes, he declared that the buckles on all ecclesiastical shoes be removed as well, and he opted not to wear the red silk papal slippers in the papal apartment. His successors subsequently reverted to the historic tradition – some even went to their graves in the papal shoes. During his pontificate, St. John Paul II abandoned the red papal outdoor shoes; rather he opted for cordovan brown leather shoes, which were made in Poland, his home country. As for Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, he revived the papal tradition of wearing the red outdoor shoes, which were cobbled by Adriano Stefanelli of Novara. The current pontiff, Pope Francis has forgone the tradition – he wears simple black dress shoes out of humility.

Pope Francis`s humility
  1. Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity;(4*) by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.


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