Sunday, December 02, 2007

The penitential Papal Formale (it's back)

(Above: Penitential Papal Formale, offered to Pope Leo XIII by the Augustinian Order in 1887. Gilded silver, diamonds and pearls. Worn by His Holiness Benedict XVI for the First Vespers of Advent, 2007 - Photo from "Trésors inconnus du Vatican" by Bernard Berthod and Pierre Blanchard)

In a recent post about the First Vespers for the 1st Sunday of Advent, Shawn Tribe and many commentators noticed that His Holiness was wearing a beautiful cope, so different from the ugly vestments the old Marini loved so much.

Now, I'd like to draw the readers' attention to a very important feature about the Holy Father's vestments: the use of the traditional formale.

The formale (sometimes called also rationale, but not to be confused with the episcopal humeral proper to the Bishops of Eichstätt, Paderborn, Toul, and Cracow - see also Fr. Tucker's article with photos) is a morse used to join the two fimbriae of the cope. This insignia is reserved only to the Diocesan Bishop when he celebrates pontifically inside his Diocese.

Traditionally, the Sovereign Pontiff used three kinds of formalia: the precious one, used in the most solemn occasions, studded with gems; the ordinary one, shaped like a golden dove; and the penitential one, with three pinecones placed in a triangular pattern.

The penitential one wasn't used since 1969, but the Holy Father has decided to restore its usage right for the first Sunday of Advent.

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