1 October 2010

Pope Leo's Stole

I gather that the Holy Father wore a stole of Pope Leo XIII on his visit to England; and that some Clever People see this as a Cunning Sign of the Pope's devotion to that all-important document, for some papists the very heart and centre of their Catholic Faith, Apostolicae curae.

I find it very hard to believe that Dr Ratzinger shares the sort of sniggering adolescent nastiness exemplified in such a hermeneutic. I consider it much more likely that the nice old Bavarian gentleman had heard a rumour somewhere, which has evidently not reached his Subtle Interpreters, that it was Papa Pecci who raised Blessed John Henry to the dignity of Cardinal.

He, too, may be aware of Newman's fond sense that Leo's gesture was that of one Christian who had been out of favour during the previous pontificate towards another such. He may even have heard that Leo XIII, at his first consistory, honoured with the Cardinal's Hat two others who had been on the losing side at Vatican I: Haynald and Fuerstenberg (and later Meignan and Foulon). Indeed, at the Council Cardinal Pecci had himself at times taken a rather independent line.

Most striking was Pope Leo's strong and vigorously expressed admiration for Kenrick, Archbishop of S Louis, who at the Council had been not merely an inopportunist but had positively believed that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was not part of the depositum fidei.

If I were impertinent enough to thrust upon an expectant world my own decoding of the current Sovereign Pontiff's Leonine gesture, I'd explain it as being an expression of all that.

It must be trying for some people that so many popes are insufficiently rabid in their papalism.


John F H H said...

Because Anglicans chiefly remember Leo XIII for Apostolicæ Curæ, it tends to be forgotten that he was the first of "modern" popes to concern himself with Christian Unity.
Not only did he issue Praeclara Gratulationis Publicæ (1894) on the reunion of Christendom, amongst a number of letters and encyclicals on the subject of Christian unity, but he showed his special love and concern for the people of England and of Scotland in Amantissima Voluntatis (to the English - 1895) and Caritatis Studium (to the Scottish bishops - 1898. In both of these he refers for the first time to "separated brethren". In the first he gave us the famous prayer for the reunion of England:
Prayer for England.

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England thy "Dowry" and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world ; and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the cross. O sorrowful Mother! intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the supreme Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee, in our heavenly home. Amen

In the light of all this, it is should come as no surprise that the Pontiff chose to wear Leo's stole.

John U.K.

John F H H said...

P.S. Some of the encyclicals, etc. of Leo are on lne at the vaticanwebsite and elswhere, the version of Amantissima Voluntatis at http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13amantissima.htm
has sections missing:
the entire letter is at the source:
Caritatis Studium is at

John U.K.

GOR said...

As I have noted elsewhere when this came up, Father, I believe yours is the correct interpretation of the Holy Father’s gesture. Pope Benedict is ever gracious, humble and considerate in his dealings with others. It would be totally out of character for him to indulge in such a petty gesture and he would be shocked that anyone should draw such a conclusion.

Rubricarius said...

The comments on some blogs, blogs of course far removed from the calibre of this one, are truly remarkable in their fantasies.

I'm sure the choice of stole worn by Benedict XVI was more driven by its appearance, quality and length. Would the pope make a coded snub and then give a joint blessing with +Rowan from the High Altar of the Abbey?

What struck me most about the visit was the warmth and affection there was between Benedict XVI and +Rowan, indeed it appears that Benedict holds +Rowan in higher regard than many members of the CofE!

Scott said...

Odd to wear a stole for an office, though, no?

Br. Stephen, O.Cist said...

Well said, Father. People would do well to read a biography of Leo, whom many in the curia feared to be a dangerous radical.

Pastor in Valle said...

I think that it was I who first raised the question (or at any rate I did so early on and had not seen another similar question), but it was just that, a question, and it has been very well answered here and elsewhere. I was and am sure that the Holy Father would never wish to give offence on such an occasion.
What has slightly surprised me is that the papal stole Archbishop Runcie gave to Pope John Paul at Canterbury seems to have disappeared without trace. Does anyone know what became of it? It might have been appropriate for this occasion.

Rubricarius said...

Just to clarify: my earlier comment about the low calibre of some blogs was aimed in a trans-Atlantic direction - certainly not in a southerly trajectory to Shoreham on Sea.

Mall said...

Not convinced that Benedict did not want to evoke AC. But evoke, subtly. He's such a subtle man. There's also the Newman connection, of course. Et et, perhaps?

William Tighe said...

As I wrote elsewhere, I'm not concerned so much about Benedict's wearing Pope Leo's stole in Westminster Abbey, as hoping that he was carrying a relic of Bl. John Felton on his person in Westminster Hall.

William Tighe said...

As I wrote elsewhere, I'm not concerned so much about Benedict's wearing Pope Leo's stole in Westminster Abbey, as hoping that he was carrying a relic of Bl. John Felton on his person in Westminster Hall.

Fr Petroc said...

I thought the Holy Father's visit was inspirational. I'm actually an Anglican, but am having to think very seriously about the ordinariate.