Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Camauro Here Often?

The church queens of the world have unleashed their jubiliation.... You'll notice that he's wearing the First Communion suit again (grecca), as well.

But it's a terrible mismatch, no? Grecca (house dress) + pilgrim cape (house dress) + camauro (choir dress). Doesn't add up; chalk it up to papal layering for the cold weather.

*LOGGIA EXCLUSIVE -- MUST CREDIT* A source close to the Gammarelli family of ecclesiastical tailors reports that the camauro worn by Benedict XVI at this morning's general audience was apparently made yesterday, in the space of three hours.

Seminarians: Do not attempt this at home.

Imagine my horror when I woke up to 18 messages of squealing sartorial fanatics without a computer at my disposal -- and Kinko's wouldn't let me copy the photo into the Blogger interface ($40 of the Christmas budget blown on my logged-in time there, by the by -- remember the fund drive!).

Of course, there is a subtext to all this, one which has been forgotten in all the superficial coverage of the Pope's donning what resembles (to the untrained eye, of course) a Santa hat four days before Christmas -- an aesthetic input overload festival exemplified by Reuters' lede that "He was not riding on a one-horse open sleigh, but when Pope Benedict arrived on the popemobile for his weekly audience in St Peter's Square, on-lookers could have been forgiven for thinking Santa Claus was in town."

What they all missed is this: The Pope is still outside for his Wednesday gatherings because demand for tickets to the general audiences and other events is at an all-time high, higher even than in the halcyon days of John Paul II, who had long retreated to the Nervi (the Paul VI audience hall, which seats about 6,000) by this time of year. Benedict simply doesn't want to let the masses down; though much more subtle than his seemingly superhuman predecessor, he is keenly aware of the power of presence.

As my Tablet collegaue Robert Mickens reported last week from Rome, the Prefecture of the Papal Household -- which coordinates logistics for those who wish to see the Pope, both in audience and for liturgies -- has been beyond overwhelmed with requests for Midnight Mass tickets, having to turn down "thousands" of applications. One hopeful congregant got his query returned "with a line through it and a big, fat 'NO' written on the page," Mickens wrote.

Whether they're coming to see the Pope or the fashion show is another question. Here's hoping the former.

And, yeah, I'm still poaching.

One last thing: BIG CORRECTION: Several outlets have been reporting through the day that John XXIII was buried in the camauro in 1963. This is wrong, wrong, WRONG. As with all clerics, Popes are buried in liturgical vestments -- red in the case of pontiffs, in deference to their succession to the martyred St. Peter. When John's body was exhumed and moved to the St. Jerome altar of St. Peter's after his beatification in 2001, it was decided to re-dress it in the choir dress of cassock, rochet, ermine-lined mozzetta and camauro.

OK, basta. Amen.

PHOTO: AP/Alessandra Tarantino