Benedict's Threads

In the Star-Ledger today, David Gibson, religion journalist and author of "The Rule of Benedict" has a well-researched piece on the increasing regularity with which Benedict has been sporting far more traditional vesture. "Gibson on Benedict" Keith Pecklers, S.J. looked at the same phenomenon--more copes, more lace, taller mitres, camauros (the fur-trimmed hat pictured above.) in his article in The Tablet, referenced in our blog a few weeks ago. What’s behind these decisions? Is it an implicit critique of Vatican II, or a reflection of the pope’s obvious love of tradition in all its many facets. Or both? Here’s Gibson: With increasing regularity, Benedict has been reintroducing elaborate lace garments and monarchical regalia that have not been seen around Rome in decades, even cen turies. He has presided at mass using the wide cope (a cape so ample it is held up by two attendants) and high mitre of Pius IX, a 19th-century pope known for his dim views of the modern world, and on Ash Wednesday he wore a chasuble modeled on one worn by Paul V, a Borghese pope of the 17th century remembered for censuring Galileo. On Good Friday he donned a "fiddleback" vestment dating to the Counter-Reformation era of the 16th century, and he has used a tall gilded papal throne not seen in years. And that’s not to mention the ermine-trimmed red velvet mozzetta, a shoulder cape, or the matching camauro, a Santa Claus- like cap that art students will recognize from Renaissance portraiture. As Robert Mickens, the Rome correspondent for The Tablet of London, put it, the pope’s aides have "been busy raiding the liturgi cal storage rooms and the Vatican museums in an attempt to return the papal liturgies to their pre-Vatican II splendor" -- a reference to the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s that ushered in reforms simplifying many church rites and scaling back grandiose vesture. Even director Franco Zeffirelli, who staged many papal events for John Paul, has chided the new pontiff for bringing back a "showy" style of attire because it makes him seem aloof. Now comes word that Benedict has commissioned a set of 30 new vestments modeled on those worn by the notorious Medici pope, Leo X, a corpulent, corrupt fellow who at his election famously declared, "Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us." James Martin, SJ
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