Did you notice the snazzy white overcoat, Pope Benedict XIV performed his last public Mass at the Vatican in Wednesday morning?
The long, double-breasted coat is called a greca and it's common for clergy - priests, bishops, cardinals and yes, the pope - to wear for formal ocassions - especially when it's cold. The coat is a little bit longer than a cassock, the vestment a priest wears to perform Mass, so it covers the ankle-length garment entirely. The pope is the only member of the Roman Catholic clergy who wears an all white greca.
"It’s very functional coat," explained Father Kevin Gallagher, director of the vocation office for the Philadelphia Diocesan Priesthood. "It was about 50 today in Rome, and you can tell from the flag there was a breeze."
Pope Benedict XIV is the first pope to retire from his papal duties in 600 years. His last day as pope is Thursday. He will continue wearing his papal whites once a new pope has been chosen, but he will give up the red loafers. Pope Benedict brought the red shoes back into papal fashion shortly after he was elected pope in 2005. (Pope John Paul II preferred brown shoes.)
The Greca - also known as a douillette - became a part of Roman Catholic fashion via France. Those French have their fingers in all fashions, don't they? The pope's greca is made at the Gammarelli Shop, located in Rome right behind the Pantheon, Gallagher said. The family business has been providing the majority of the papal wardrobe for centuries.