The Pope’s Red Shoes

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The wearing of red papal shoes (then “sandals”) dates back to the earliest times of the Church.  However, in 1566 St. Pope Pius V, a White Dominican, decided to change the papal vestments from red to white leaving only the Pope’s cappello (a wide circular brimmed hat), cape and shoes the color red.  Usually elaborate, the leather soled, less structured papal “slippers” of the time were made of red satin and silk along with gold thread and embroidered ruby encrusted crosses. 

Until the first half of the 20th century, it was customary for pilgrims having an audience with the Pope to kneel and kiss one of his slippers.  Similar to many of noblemen of the time, the Pope also wore red slippers inside his residences and red Morocco leather shoes outside.  Centuries later, Pope Paul VI decided to update his footwear and eventually discontinued the use of “slippers” altogether in favor of sturdy red shoes for both indoor and outdoor use.

Throughout Church history, the color red has been deliberately chosen to represent the blood of Catholic martyrs spilt through the centuries following in the footsteps of Christ.  The red papal shoes are also linked to Christ’s own bloodied feet as he was prodded, whipped, and pushed along the Via Dolorosa on his way to his crucifixion, culminating in the piercing of his hands and feet on the cross.  The red shoes also symbolize the submission of the Pope to the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ.  Beyond this, it is said the red papal shoes also signify God’s burning love for humanity as exhibited during Pentecost when red vestments are worn to commemorate the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles as tongues of fire rest upon their heads.

From: “Red Shoes and the Room of Tears” by Judy Keane      http://catholicexchange.com/red-shoes-and-the-room-of-tears

 Photo source:    http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/mar/12/why-pope-wears-red-shoes/

A Green Shoe and A Red Shoe

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This past November, I traveled with friends through the mountainous areas of southeastern Ethiopia. While in an open air restaurant, we feasted on chickpea ‘wat’ and ‘injera’ bread. But it was the waiter’s footwear that captivated me. I couldn’t take my eyes off his delightful green and red shoe combination.

That day we delivered over 1000 free books to remote schools in the Imagine1Day network. (www.imagine1day.org). The book (“Loss of Innocence” by Yosef Ayalew) is an illustrated script of teenage characters encountering and problem-solving the intentional spread of HIV/AIDS. Schools and community groups throughout Ethiopia now have this book in hand.  Many plan to act it out.

But that day, my eyes were fixed on a red shoe and a green shoe.

Throughout 2014, you will see photos of feet in Ethiopia interspersed in the different weekly themes on this blog www.followingfeet.com.  As I explore and lay out the symbolism of messages that feet deliver, I will be asking God for deeper revelation and guidance. How do the spiritual messages pair up with the physical? Can the unconcious symbolism of feet teach us to walk more consciously with God?  

For now, a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you. Teresa Sandhu