Pope Francis to Sicilian clerics: Take off your grandmother’s lace.

In an audience with bishops and priests of Sicily on 9 June 2022, Pope Francis told the clerics to stop wearing their “grandmother’s lace”, saying he had “seen the photos”.

The Vatican BollettinoAn English language rundown and commentary on CRUX.

Living in Palermo I must say that the charge seems a bit overwrought. Yes, bishops and priests still wear lace, but no more than in the Vatican or elsewhere.  For Francis, Vatican II seems to have a ‘style’. An assertion I have previously argued against on these pages, and in Studia Liturgica.

The more interesting part of the address comes when Pope Francis asks the Bishops of Sicily if the celebration of the liturgy on the island has actually been reformed. This is a more pertinent issue. Having visited Italy since 1996, and living here since 2012, my answer would be, no. Parochial liturgy in Italy can be a painfully mundane experience. Little institutional energy seems to have been dedicated to music, preaching, and conscious participation the last decades.  Just go to your neighborhood parish and try join in singing – if there is music. You would have had to memorize the song during catechism classes in the 1970s.  Newly built churches (of which there are numerous) generally remain uninspired halls with interminable banks of pews aligned to a stage. The liturgical churches of North America and Northern Europe have much to be proud of on this front.


  1. There’s lace, hand crafted, a delicate, rare and beautiful creation, and then there is ‘net,’ an industrially produced parody of the real thing.

    Good lace in moderation on albs and surplices is attractive.

    Why is Pope Francis getting so grumpy?


  2. I think he’s trying to jar them into rethinking their role and the church’s role in Sicily.

    Francis doesn’t care a pin about clothes. “Grandma’s lace” simply gave him a vivid way of making his point, which is that the church needs a shakeup. A re-focus on what’s important.

    When accepted conventions, as the article outlined, include bending the knee to mafia bosses, something’s wrong, and it didn’t happen yesterday. What his talk seemed to me to be about is cutting ties with a corrupt past, and starting afresh.

    1. Yes, I think the salient question is – what is the role of the church in Sicily. There are many elements of popular religion which seem poly-theistic. People who get mad that their preferred saint didn’t deliver the goods, so they move on to the next.

      In Palermo, like Naples, and Rome, there is an extraordinary amount of trash piled up through the city. How do the churches begin to address this crisis, rather than intense but profane processions? Perhaps the processions need to stop at the mountains of rubbish, and repent. And perhaps the churches need to facilitate this as an act of repentance against the abuse of nature and the image of Christ in the cosmos.

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