The story of the Pope's red shoes

The story of the Pope’s red shoes and why Pope Francis decide not to use them

And why did Pope Francis decide not to use them

Many still remember Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI in their red shoes – and some even wonder why Pope Francis does not use them.

These shoes are as old as the Church and have a specific meaning, as well as almost all the visible elements traditionally related to the Popes.

Most popes used to wear three types of shoes: a lighter red shoe to wear inside the Vatican; Episcopal sandals to celebrate Mass according to liturgical colors (until 1969); and stronger red leather shoes for outdoor use. It is the latter of which we are going to speak.

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As for color: in the secular world, red has almost always been associated with royal power, but in the Church this color primarily recalls the Blood of the Passion of Christ and, by extension, God’s love for humanity, besides the love of all the martyrs who gave their lives for Christ. To make this symbolism clearer, the red leather shoes of the Popes often carried a cross embroidered in gold.

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The Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II were buried in these shoes. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also used them, along with other traditional symbolic elements.


Shutterstock-Eugenio Marongiu

Pope Francisco preferred to continue wearing the black shoes that he was already accustomed to and which have been made by the same Argentine shoemaker for more than 40 years: Carlos Samaria.

More aggressive sections of the secular media, who did the impossible to attack Benedict XVI’s pontificate in any way, even falsely reported that the pontiff’s shoes were a symbol of luxury, although the meaning of these shoes was public and traditional in the papacy had been for centuries and centuries. Incidentally, it was also reported, with the same falsehood, that the throne of the Pope was of solid gold, when it is actually painted wood. These same sectors of the media also tried to lead us to believe, with all imaginable excuses, that there would be a “radical break” between the pontificates of Benedict and Francis, a point which the two Popes have repeatedly denied, constantly emphasizing continuity, coherence, reciprocal appreciation and mutual collaboration. It is noticeable that there are differences of personal style, which are accidental,

The red shoes, in short, are only a symbol, which, although beautiful and simple, is secondary, not obligatory – that is why Pope Francisco is not using them, choosing to avoid unnecessary polemics about something that is not essential . To put it another way: he chose to sacrifice a symbolic aspect that could be quietly understood in its own and uplifting meaning, but which is not indispensable, and did this in order to prioritize concord with people willing to arrange sterile polemics that are simply not worth pity for much more relevant issues.


© Antoine Mekary – ALETEIA


  1. Katie July 31, 2019
  2. Kay Max January 11, 2021
  3. Marie May 24, 2021
  4. Marie May 24, 2021

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