As the Benedict XVI processed into the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on Wednesday evening for evening prayer, he wore an ermine trimmed half-cape. Why does he want to dress like this, I wondered? Isn’t this the Pope that reminds us that liturgy should de-focus the person, and draw us into the worship of a God we cannot see? Yet, here he was definitely drawing my attention to his attire, and thus the man.
Apparently, Pope Benedict has begun to rummage through the ancient liturgical closets for papal clothing long thought extinct. Why?
Personally, I think he is trying to remind us of our very ancient and deeply held traditions. It has something to do with Catholic identity, and his fervent belief that we need a very visible and strong identity, if we are to survive as Catholics in this secular world. Ritual, dress, religious practices, beliefs, etc., all create an identity. Of course, this is just my opinion, and you may have another. You also might like to read what Father James Martin has to say about the Papal wardrobe of Benedict in a column he wrote in the New York Times Online Edition: Benedict, Fashionista. The comments to this article are just as interesting.
Just for the record, the ermine trimmed cape would not have been my choice.