The Pope’s Red Shoes

The Pope's Red Shoes - Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope’s Red Shoes – Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope’s Red Shoes   –   February 28, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI wore those red leather shoes one last time before stepping down from the papacy on his final day as Pope, February 28, 2013.  Along with the Swiss Guard protection and the fisherman’s ring, the pontiff’s red loafers -often misidentified as Prada, but, in fact, made by a Roman cobbler, Antonio Arellano – are gone.  So is his Twitter account and even the name “Benedict” as he officially abdicates today.

While each pontiff has his own style, red shoes are a papal tradition that goes back centuries.  Red boots were traditional footwear worn by early Roman kings, the color symbolizing the blood of the martyrs.

But today, the Pope Emeritus will no longer wear red shoes.  While the pope’s red leather loafers became something of a trademark during his time in office,  there is something to be said about the man who walked inside of those red shoes.  Who is the man behind the Pope?

Some say Joseph Ratzinger is a man of great humility, and a man of God.  His first encyclical, or letter to the church, eight months after becoming pope, was titled “God Is Love.”

“Everything has its origin in God’s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it.  Love is God’s greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope,” he wrote in his third encyclical, “Charity in Truth,” in 2009.

A shy theologian who appeared to have little interest in the internal politics of the Vatican, Benedict has said that he is retiring “freely, and for the good of the church,” entrusting it to a successor who has more strength than he does.  He said he took the step fully aware of its seriousness and novelty, “with a profound serenity of mind.”

Many faithful have welcomed Benedict’s gesture as a sign of humility and humanity, a rational decision taken by a man who no longer feels up to the job.  Sometimes a human-sized Pope can provide a refreshing challenge to our expectations, as well as an important counter balance to the larger-than-life quality of the papacy itself.  No one is born a pope.  You have to learn to be a pope.

May Castel Gandolfo and the convent gardens of the Vatican overlooking the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica offer “Benedetto” rays of happiness and profound serenity of mind.

The pope’s red shoes are gone.  The fisherman’s ring has been removed.  Another cobbler is busy preparing for a new Pope without knowing the size of his sole.  Another fisherman’s ring is being created as the fiery furnace of love is shaped and formed by the origin’s of God’s Love.  Divinity is here and now, in all its many forms, even the Pope’s Red Shoes.