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  • Pope Francis has developed a reputation for being a bit... unconventional.

  • Since his papacy began in 2013, he's done away with ring kissing.

  • Because he wants to be humble.

  • Throne sitting.

  • Pope Francis used the simple white chair.

  • Pope mobiling.

  • Refusing to use his bulletproof vehicles.

  • He's broken a ton of centuries-old traditions, pushing for modern updates across the Catholic church.

  • But it's not just what Pope Francis does that sets him apart from past popes; it's what he wears.

  • From elaborate embroidered scenes to more subtle color cues, papal clothing has always been laden with symbolism.

  • And it's is how Pope Francis communicates some of his most basic beliefs and intentions.

  • Most of the time, Pope Francis wears this.

  • When greeting crowds, meeting dignitaries, basically anything other than performing mass.

  • It's made up of a cassock, an ankle length coat.

  • A fascia, tied around his waist.

  • A zucchetto, which translates to "skullcap" for obvious reasons.

  • And this, a pellegrina: a cape of sorts. Which, unfortunately, often blows in the wind, prompting an ongoing heated debate over whether or not to add Velcro.

  • Anyway, the pope's clothing is roughly the same as a cardinal's below him, or bishops below them.

  • Except, all of the pope's clothing is, of course, white, the biblical color of angels and Jesus' robes, symbolizing innocence, purity, divinity.

  • This outfit has been roughly the same since at least the 1200s, and since the late 1700s, it's even been made by the same family of tailors.

  • But each pope adds their own specific flair.

  • Compare Pope Francis to Pope John Paul II. He was two Popes ago.

  • We couldn't find a Pope Benedict doll, probably because he wasn't pope for very long.

  • Even in doll form, the differences are easy to see.

  • Pope Francis' fascia is plain, instead of being fringed and bearing his coat of arms.

  • And his crucifix is iron, as opposed to gold.

  • Francis also keeps it plain when it comes to outerwear, opting for a white peacoat, instead of the traditional winter mozzetta lined with ermine fur.

  • That's this extremely cute weasel-like animal.

  • And then there's the shoes. Popes usually pick one style of shoes and stick to them.

  • Pope Francis wears frugal, black oxfords, paired with black socks. The same shoes he wore as a priest and a cardinal.

  • But before him, most popes opted for white socks and red shoes.

  • JP II wore a dark, burgundy pair, and Pope Benedict famously sported slick red leather loafers, which prompted Esquire Magazine to name him "Accessorizer of the Year" in 2007.

  • The red shoes are likely a reference to the blood of martyrs and the passion of Jesus, who is often pictured in red post-resurrection.

  • But some claim they're just a holdover from when the rich and powerful wore a lot of red.

  • Because it was expensive and set them apart from common people, which it seems is where a lot of papal garment design originates.

  • If you look at the clothing of Byzantine royalty, you'll see a lot of similarities to modern catholic leadership, right down to the red shoes.

  • Pope Francis' choices reflect a desire to distance himself from that history.

  • He even wears some of the same mass vestments he did as bishop, including, this, his mitre.

  • Mitres, essentially foldable hats, have been around in various iterations for at least a thousand years.

  • Today, they're worn only during mass, not just by the pope, but by cardinals and bishops too.

  • No one can really agree on their origin, but they're likely yet another holdover from royal dress.

  • There are a few mass vestments reserved only for the pope, including the pallium, this circular wool band, and sometimes, this thing: a ferula, both references to Jesus as "the good shepherd".

  • But the main event of the pope's mass attire is the chasuble, essentially a poncho.

  • This chasuble, white with a minimal gold trim is the first one Pope Francis wore.

  • His choice for his inaugural mass. Traditionally, the time for your showiest chasuble.

  • It's also his chasuble of choice, worn most frequently throughout the year. Even on Christmas, another time popes usually opt for more opulence.

  • But over the course of the year, chasuble colors vary according to the church calendar, a schedule all priests roughly follow.

  • Purple, during times of penance, like advent and lent.

  • Green, during times of growth, used throughout quote "ordinary time".

  • White and gold, symbolizing joy and purity for major celebrations like Easter and Christmas.

  • Sprinkled in are some Red chasubles whenever sacrifice is celebrated, and a few pink ones.

  • Pope Francis usually follows this calendar, but on July 8th, 2013 he wore this: a simple, purple chasuble, even though it was squarely within Ordinary time.

  • Purple, the color of penance and mourning.

  • He wore it during a visit to a refugee camp on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

  • While standing atop an altar made of wooden remnants from refugee boats, he delivered a now famous homily that criticized global indifference to the refugee crisis.

  • We have become used to the suffering of others: "It doesn't affect me; it doesn't concern me; it's none of my business."

  • His clothes represent the church he's working to build: something simpler, more accessible, more modern.

Pope Francis has developed a reputation for being a bit... unconventional.

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Why the pope dresses like that

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    Jeff Chiao posted on 2022/02/15
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