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Papal Attire

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Definition:   Special paraphernalia of the pope that reflect his office. The mitre is the tall hat worn to symbolize his three roles as king (temporal ruler of the Church and the government of the Vatican), priest (mediator and teacher) and prophet (his ability to discern the will of God). The pallium is a circular band worn around the neck and shoulders that symbolizes his unlimited power. The mozzetta is a special cape trimmed with ermine. The Ring of the Fisherman adorns the pope’s ring finger, and is used to imprint official documents. It is also customary for visitors to kneel and kiss the ring. The cappa magna is a red cloak with long train. The triregnum is the bejeweled crown with three royal diadems. To carry the pope, the sedia gestatoria is a portable throne, richly adorned and covered with silk. It is carried by twelve uniformed footmen along with special fans made of white feathers.

Discussion: From the time of Constantine the bishop of Rome has resembled the imperial court of the Roman Empire in pomp, luxury and attire. Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) declared that popes have the right to depose kings and to make and revoke laws. Innocent III (1198-1216) proclaimed that he was ruler of the world. Boniface VII (1294-1303) said that he was Caesar; he wore a crown covered with over 200 rubies, emeralds, sapphires and large pearls. Peter warned that church leaders must be godly examples and not act like lords (1 Pet. 5:1-3). The pope’s regalia is described in the book of Revelation: “clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls…” – and condemned (Rev. 17:3-4).

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