The Pope’s Red Stefanelli’s

The following is from the News Democrat (IL) via McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, dateline March 5, 2013; byline Roger Schlueter, headline “The devil wears Prada … but what about the pope’s red loafers?”

In 2006, Hollywood showed us that “The Devil Wears Prada.” Could it be that Pope Benedict XVI made questionable fashion choices concerning his very sole?  This was the rumor that began swirling after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005. Retiring the brown shoes worn by his predecessor, John Paul II , Benedict brought back the red loafers favored by many previous popes.

His fashion sense, which, included Serengeti sunglasses and Geox-donated walking shoes, quickly gained the notice of designers.   In its 2007 list of the best-dressed men in the world, Esquire magazine named Benedict “accessorizer of the year” for his ornate papal habits paired with those red shoes. Perhaps because of that, you’ll still find stories that claim Benedict’s red footwear are none other than that chi-chi Italian brand Prada costing who knows how much.

Well, those shoes are worth hundreds of dollars a pair, but they aren’t Prada — and they didn’t cost Catholics a penny. They’re the work of Adriano Stefanelli , an Italian shoemaker who, out of love for his church, reportedly began making shoes as a gift for the pope a decade ago.

“When I was a child and people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I used to answer, ‘I’d like to make the pope’s shoes,'” Stefanelli told Catholic Online ( in 2008. “Today, it seems to me, I’ve realized my childhood dream.” . . .  The shoes — which Stefanelli describes as “ruby red, almost bordeaux” — are hand-sewn and take nearly a month to make. [They cost about $550 a pair.]  

The return to red served several purposes for Benedict, who loves cats and relaxed at night by practicing the piano, [said] Lawrence Cunningham , a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame . . . .  Traditionally, he said, red is worn to symbolize the blood shed by Catholic martyrs. It also signifies the burning fire of God’s love. . . .

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