“He’s like a king. He decides and we obey,” Gammarelli said as he leaned against shelves stocked with expensive violet, pink, green and red fabrics. “If the cardinals start coming in asking for new clothes, we’ll know that he has asked them to add things. But if he wants them to remove things, how will I know?”
Gammarelli said he had heard rumors that the pope wanted a simpler dress code for his cardinals, but wouldn’t allow himself to get too concerned unless an edict was issued. “If so, we’ll adapt,” he said. “There’s no choice.”
A full-dress predecessor
Benedict XVI, who last month became the first pontiff to resign in 600 years, was a proponent of the restoration of the church’s older rites, and he reached deep into the church’s closet of vestments and regalia to emphasize its rich tradition.
He wore violet copes; blue, full-cut chasubles with abstract designs; and furry white Easter mozettas for the spring season. He donned an assortment of hats, including the camauro, a Santa Claus-esque red wool cap with an ermine trim that dated back to the 12th century; a red Saturno, a full-brimmed number named for ringed Saturn; and a precious mitre studded with jewels.
The emeritus pope, as Benedict is now known, is not the church’s only fashion plate. Cardinal Raymond Burke is perhaps best known for arguing, as archbishop of St. Louis, that Catholic politicians who supported abortion rights should be denied Communion. In Rome, where he is now prefect of the church’s tribunal, he has also earned a reputation for operatic regalia. He is one of the few cardinals who dons cappa magnas, the long trains of watered silk that can look like scarlet lava flowing down from his throne. His velvet gloves and extravagant brocades prompted Vatican officials to ask him to “tone it down a bit,” according to noted religion reporter David Gibson.
“The vestments, everything, are part of a tradition,” Burke told Gibson. “We need to understand that and not just discard it and say, ‘Well, it was all just an ugly accretion.’ ”
(“I’m sorry,” Burke said when reached by phone. “I won’t be able to respond.”)