EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

March 23, 2013

Column:

The rise of Pope Francis has certainly raised new questions for Vatican watchers, such as: How significant is it that he has not been wearing cuff links?

In the past, this kind of detail “would be seen as frivolous,” noted Rocco Palmo of Philadelphia, whose “Whispers In The Loggia” site is must reading for Catholic insiders. Now, this pope’s commitment to beyond-symbolic simplicity is causing religious leaders, journalists, diplomats and Catholics at every level to wrestle with the importance of his Jesuit roots, as well as his devotion to St. Francis of Assisi.

The symbolism began with his introduction, when he wore simple white vestments — the papal equivalent of street clothes — and declined a formal, ermine-trimmed red cape. He has been wearing his steel pectoral cross, rather than an ornate gold papal model. He has favored black walking shoes over dramatic red footwear.

Greeting the masses in St. Peter’s Square, he bowed and said: “Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me.” Then he rode the bus with the cardinals, one white skullcap among the red ones. He returned to the Domus Paulus VI — where he roomed pre-conclave — to collect his luggage and pay his own bill.

Francis is so reluctant to change his style, noted Palmo, that this trend even “extends under the white cassock, to boot: the Argentine pontiff’s preferences don’t just make his move to keep wearing black pants visible through the garment, but likewise highlight the untucked tails of his white dress shirt.

“In other words, the lack of fuss isn’t just a show for the world,” Palmo wrote. “But having declined the archbishop’s residence in Buenos Aires for a flat where he did his own cooking, and riding around the city on buses and subways without an entourage, that was fairly well-established.”

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