Five years ago I wrote an op-ed column for The Times about Pope Benedict XVI’s partiality for ornate vestments and miters (the double-pointed hats sported not only by the pope but also by other bishops in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches). That article, which a clever copy editor titled “Dress Code,” is looking more and more like a period piece after the inaugural Mass of Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis.
In what must have been a disappointment to Msgr Guido Marini, the papal “master of ceremonies” who outfitted Benedict in skyscraper jeweled miters and elaborately embroidered chasubles, Francis dressed down at a ceremony that was a far cry from the formality of Benedict’s inaugural Mass, let alone the coronations with which popes began their pontificate before Pope John Paul I junked the tiara in 1978.
The pope wore a miter, but it seems to be the same unadorned model he used in Argentina. (My guess is that the new archbishop of Canterbury, an Evangelical Anglican who will be enthroned this week, will wear a more ornate miter than Francis’.) The pope’s chasuble, the poncho-like vestment used by priests celebrating Mass, was similarly simple – less elaborately decorated, in fact, than the one worn by cardinals in attendance. And it followed the “Gothic” style popular after the second Vatican Council (and also employed by some Protestant churches), not the stiff “Roman” style Benedict revived.