A New Pope, a New Consistory, a New Look

The Archbishop of Managua (Nicaragua) traveled to Rome in blue jeans for the most recent consistory.


The hat better have been worth the journey. If he had asked, he could have borrowed my miniature red biretta from Gammarelli.

Or even better yet, he could have made his own…


But in all seriousness, a new age is dawning in the Church full of surprises. I for one am eager to see where Francis and the “Francis Effect” is taking us.


  1. I have to admit, I saw a lot of lace. It wasn’t only on the older cardinals, some of the cardinals from the new world also had elaborate brocade. Sometimes the poorest people want the most elaborate Churches, they see it as their own treasure to be shared by all. I’m not saying we need lace or the more lace the better, I am just saying that poor church does not equal simplified vestments.

  2. I wonder how many of this new crop are wearing the choir dress that belonged to their predecessor or mentor, as Pope Francis reportedly did when he was named to the college.

    Regarding less formal attire, I doubt any cardinals in 1974 ever wore jeans outside their own homes, if there. 🙂

    More important, of course, is the man that the video portrays. This is obviously a shepherd with the smell of his sheep on him. Francis certainly seems to be selecting men who share a lot in common with him.

  3. Impressive. Greeted everyone at the airport including the “paparazzi” and pulled his own traveling bag!
    We couldn’t even get our own bishop to greet the families of graduates after he presided at graduation despite the many sacrifices they made to send their children to a Catholic High School.
    Things are a changing.

  4. I sense a false dichotomy behind some comments here. Fancy vestments do not equal aloofness or separation from the sheep. I met Cardinal Burke, and he was more than willing to talk to anyone. He carried his own stuff. And Benedict, a lover of lace, tried to get people not to kiss the papal ring and eventual gave up the throne. Some people see the fancy vestments (rightly or wrongly) as a sign pointing toward Christ’s kingdom, as signs of beauty, or what not. You can wear a really high miter without a really big head to fill it.

    1. @STEVEN SURRENCY – comment #6:
      This is a question of cultural location. You see a false dichotomy here, but I think most others do not. I respect your minority view, but it seems to me that we have to look at what symbols such as big mitres and excess lace mean to most people in their cultural situation. I grant that some see fancy vestments as pointing toward Christ’s kingdom. (Full disclosure, I sort of do myself.) More people nowadays, I think, see it as pretentious and self-exalting. You can’t very well tell people it DOESN’T mean that, for they live in the culture they live in. For my part I’ve concluded that over-the-top beautiful vestments, however much a part of me likes that, are more of a distraction than they’re worth in most situations. It’s probably best to go for simple, unpretentious beauty, simple and authentic quality, without a lot of fruh-frah in most situations. In our day this is the best form of new evangelization, the most credible witness to the Kingdom for the people we’re trying to reach today.

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #8:
        I totally agree with your comment. I was trying to explain that the psychology behind why people do what they do and wear what they wear is complicated! That was my main point. I have mixed feelings as well as to what exactly we should wear and how ornate it should be.

      2. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #8:
        Father Ruff,

        I wish that more liturgists thought like you and respected people’s cultural expectations concerning how a church building should look/feel, where the blessed sacrament should be reserved, what kind of music is appropriate for mass, how priests and religious should dress in their daily lives, etc etc. A lot of heartache of the past 40-50 years would have been avoided.

  5. @Steven Surrency – comments #2, #6

    1. “I saw a lot of lace.”

    Interesting, for I had the exact opposite impression: a lot less lace, especially on those from the so-called first world nations of the west.

    2. “Benedict… eventual gave up the throne.”

    Did he? When? Which throne? I never knew (or heard) that.

    Or did you mean that metaphorically to refer to his resignation? Cause I do know and did hear that!

    3. “Fancy vestments do not equal aloofness or separation from the sheep.”

    Of course not, just as simpler/less fancy vestments do not equal tackiness or lack of respect for God or liturgy.

    I must confess though, I’m not a fan of a priest wearing jeans with his collar, and while I’m confessing, am generally not a fan of a priest wearing street clothes either.

    But of course, if someone were to ask why, I would have no reasonable answers to give. Plus, I wear jeans to church every day, and would be the first to object to imposing dress codes on the faithful.

    sigh… self-contradiction, thy name is me.

    @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #5

    You think that’s fancy? You must not have seen real fancy ones!

    1. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #7:

      1. I might have simply expected to see very little lace. My lower expectation led to my surprise when there was quite a bit. There may have been less than in years past.

      2. Pardon my rhetorical flourish! Benedict resigned the papacy, thus giving up the cathedra of Rome, the Sedes Petri.

      3. I totally agree that less ornate vestments do not equal a hatred for all that is beautiful. That is exactly my point! There are many reasons that many people do what they do. The complexities of liturgical decisions cannot be boiled down to any simple dichotomy. You can wear a really low miter out of humility, out of liturgical simplicity, out of economic necessity, or out of a combination of these reasons.

      4. I don’t generally like a priest to overuse street clothes either. I am also not sure why. That said, I do like a priest who is not concerned with his status! The fact that a cardinal is willing to dress down is in itself probably a good thing! Again, a lot of complexity behind why every decision is made. Thus we all have to be so careful about judging why others do what they do.

    2. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #7:
      When it comes to fancy duds, the retired pope still beats all, even cardinal Burke. With the satin, sequins, jewel inlaid miters, copes and chasuables it looked as if the ghost of Coco Chanel was serving as Benedict’s liturgical coutourier. The strains of “Rhinestone Cowboy” immediately come to mind.

  6. Elizabeth, I take it your more comfortable with clergy wearing clerical garb. Just how does that imitate the Master? Priests have been “set apart for sacred duties” that serve the flock, but the clothing worn on the street rather sets them above if they’re always walking around in a cassock or other clerical apparel. Just my take.

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #9:

      As I said, there is no logical reason for my preferring to see priests in clerical clothing — you know, just black pants and a black shirt with a collar, not necessarily a cassock, or any of those more fancy wears.

      Also, I do not automatically think priests wearing clergy apparel are somehow setting themselves “above” the faithful whom they are called to serve.

      Guess I just like seeing priests and know they are priests, so that, I don’t know, I can say hi and such. I also love addressing priests as Father, and was deeply saddened when one of the priests at my church became a monsignor and went from Father [first name] to Monsignor [last name].

      So again, it’s just a personal thing and not anything else.

      By the way, you are a priest, right? Can I call you Father Jack? 😀

      @Steven Surrency – comment #10:

      “I do like a priest who is not concerned with his status!”

      Don’t we all.

    1. @David Jaronowski – comment #11:
      Your article is a wonderful example of my point. While many people may see the traditional vestments as pretentious, people wear them for various reasons. Benedict did much (though slowly and methodically) to reduce the signs of the imperial papacy. For daily work, he tried to wear the simple cassock without the cape. He tried to get people to stop kissing the ring. He tried to go get his own stuff from his apartment. He loved ornate liturgy, but disdained royal trappings. Francis’s genius is that, where Benedict eventually caved to his handlers, Francis has remained strong. In a way (a positive way), it seems Francis is more self-assertive, more self-assured than Benedict.

      1. @Steven Surrency – comment #13:
        I’ve seen old photos of cardinal Ratzinger as archbishop of Munich. He was not at the mercy of his handlers in any way shape or form. As for his disdain for “royal trappings”, at times he made Queen Elizabeth look like a piker, down-right under-dressed at the state opening of parliament.

      2. @Brian Palmer – comment #16:
        No doubt you did. However, these were photos of him during liturgy. Ratzinger thought/thinks that the liturgy should be as ornate as possible for several reasons: heavenly imagery, emphasis on beauty, continuity with the East, continuity with the pre-VII church, etc. However, in his daily life, he eschewed and asked bishops to eschew royal trappings. In non-liturgical settings, he dressed down. To his office, everyday as prefect of CDF, he wore a simple black cassock. No shoulder cape, no sash. He got the tiara off the papal coat of arms, he tried to stop kissing the ring, he tried to dress down, etc, etc. It is said that on his desk he had the quote from St. Theresa of Avila: ” You are the heir of the fisherman Peter, not the emperor Constantine.” He used the quote several times. Again, liturgical ostentation may be good or bad. Argue that on its own merits. But do not assume that liturgical pomp equals pride. Do not assume that liturgical bling equals luxurious living. It does not.

  7. Brian Palmer : @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #7: When it comes to fancy duds, the retired pope still beats all, even cardinal Burke. With the satin, sequins, jewel inlaid miters, copes and chasuables it looked as if the ghost of Coco Chanel was serving as Benedict’s liturgical coutourier. The strains of “Rhinestone Cowboy” immediately come to mind.

    Personally I found a lot of that stuff queasily camp.

  8. To change the subject from clothes and empire…

    There is an entire ensemble in the film: people, actions, music and words. I think our discussion has missed entirely the way the song gives commentary on the visuals. None of this is an accident. It was put together by diocesan television, to send a message to the people — right?

    Here is how this whole thing is “on point” with Pope Francis’s priorities: humility, simplicity, pastoral closeness to people, the joy of the gospel, and evangelization / mission.

    My Spanish isn’t up to translating the lyrics to the song, so I asked a friend. He got this rough translation from choir members at his parish:

    Toma Mi Vida Nueva.
    Take my new life.

    Lord, take my new life,
    Before the expected age
    Wears down my years.
    I’m willing to do whatever you want
    It does not matter whatever it is.
    You call me to serve you!

    Take me where people
    are in need of your word
    Need a reason to live
    Where there is no hope
    Where there is no happiness
    Simply because
    they do not know (about) you

    I give you a sincere heart
    To shout without fear
    How beautiful your love is!
    Lord, I have a missionary soul
    Conduct me to the land
    That thirsts for you.

    And so along the way singing I will be
    Preaching through towns
    Of your greatness Lord.
    I will use my arms without getting tired
    Your story on my lips
    your strength is my prayer

    What did Pope Francis ask? That the new cardinals accept their new calling with joy and sobriety as a mission in service to the gospel. What is in this video? Zero triumphalism. Joy. Simplicity. Yes to a call to mission.

    Pinch me. It’s like a dream. Is this a CARDINAL? It doesn’t get better than this.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #20:

      “None of this is an accident.”

      And the extremely cynical with hardened hearts might think: he’s trying too hard.

      Upon seeing the clip, and knowing little about this cardinal, that thought, I confess, entered my mind also.

      Anyway, the lyrics of the song are lovely. This part in particular:

      I’m willing to do whatever you want
      It does not matter whatever it is.

      it is, as it goes, never new, and it never gets old.

  9. Elizabeth @ #21, in what way did the Archbishop seem to you to be trying too hard? What I meant by “not an accident” is the pairing of the song with these bits from the video of his trip to the airport. He seemed relaxed to me, and the sign of the cross on the forehead is, I’m told, a typical gesture in Latin America within families. I loved also the gesture of folded hands. None of this seemed at all “put on” or mugging for the camera — at least not to me. I’m sure it was not in the script that he was going to turn around and shake hands with that bevy of cameramen, who, I suppose, represent the local news stations who were out getting footage for a 10-second spot for the evening news.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #22:

      To my eye, it all seemed too staged.

      Guess I’d rather he just be and do, à la, you know, Bergoglio, instead of trying to “send a message to the people” through this kind of video.

      But, everyone’s mileage varies, so if you and others found it to be sincere and moving, then who am I to say otherwise?

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