Thursday, 17 April 2008

Sartorial ecumenism

Tom Heneghan is writing some interesting posts about the Pope's vist to the USA, I particularly liked this one about George Bush taking some of the Pope's best lines. Maybe there's been a defection of a Vatican speech writer?
There was also a fascinating interview last week in Réforme with one of the Vatican's translators who is a Lutheran woman from Austria. (Only available to subscribers unfortunately.)
Meanwhile the Washington Post has an article about how Benedict is going back to more traditional forms of Papal dress and setting a trend amongst clergy outfitters as a result. Though apparently the red shoes are definitely not Prada and it is heretical to suggest such things!
It also refers to an Orthodox bishop who apparently said that a change to more formal forms of ecclesiatical sartorial dress "means Benedict wishes to unify the Eastern and Western churches."
I was also marginally inspired by Rocco Palmo's comments in the article that "this Washington tour would be watched by Catholics intrigued by ceremonial beauty. By those who want to "understand what is hidden." In other words, he said, "10,000 liturgy geeks."
Reading that I realised that somewhere along the line I have become a bit of an ecumenical geek - not quite sure that there's 10,000 of us though. But I did wonder what sartorial ecumenism might be.
Interestingly, in the Report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC in 2002 the recommendation was that clergy not wear ecclesiastical dress to lead prayers at WCC events, in order to respect all sensibilities. However, many local ecumenical events, in Geneva and France for instance, encourage clergy to wear full dress as this shows the eccesial diversity at ecumenical servicesm (amd perhaps helps them be more photogenic and media friendly).
Anyway I am generally rather sartorially challenged and tend these days more than ever to dress down, even to lead worship. However, whatever women wear is always looked at more critically than men. Goodness only knows what would happen in the pages of Vogue if there ever was a female Pope.
So is ecumenism about dressing up or dressing down? and does the Orthodox bishop quoted as saying the Pope's dress is proof of his wants to unite the eastern and western churches see that as a positive or negative thing?