Jul 27, 2010

Casual Vestments: Pope in a Ballcap

It is not the sort of get-up you'd expect the Pope to sport.  But Pope Benedict XVI broke with tradition by wearing a baseball cap as he went for a stroll around his summer residence on Sunday.

The 83-year-old even colour-coordinated his new cap, perhaps mindful of the need for it to blend in with his white robe and white hair. Pope Benedict donned the trendy hat as he walked around his estate in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.  The cap also served the more useful purpose of keeping the hot summer sun off the Pope's head.

The move isn't the first time that the Vatican has broken with tradition this week.

It emerged at the weekend that officials have decided not to fly the Pope home to Italy on British Airways at the end of his state visit to the UK this autumn.  The decision is due, in part, to the threat of BA strikes.

It has become customary for the Pope to return home from official visits on the flag carrier of the country he has toured.   Pope Benedict will instead fly from Rome to Britain and back on an Airbus A320 operated by Italian state airline Alitalia.

One factor understood to have concerned Roman Catholic officials was the BA cabin crew strikes, which threaten to restart in September when the visit takes place.  The Vatican is determined nothing should detract from the four-day trip, the first state visit by a Pope to Britain.  He will meet the Queen in Scotland before visiting London and Birmingham.  British Airways was asked earlier this year to provide a quote to charter a 747 jet to fly the Pope back to Rome. A BA source said it offered a quote at ‘commercial rates’, but heard no more from the Church.  Airline officials assumed the Vatican had been given a cheaper quote by a rival.

Vatican sources, however, claim Church officials in the UK tried to contact BA again to discuss the details but received no response.

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