A papal crown makes for not-quite-perfect gift

VATICAN CITY — A gift can be appreciated and used even when it’s not perfect. That seems to be what happened last Sunday when a different papal coat of arms appeared on a tapestry hung from the window of Pope Benedict XVI’s apartment. 

A closeup of the tapestry used Sunday, featuring the tiara. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

The Catholic blogosphere has been abuzz since Sunday with images, questions and opinions about the tapestry because it featured a crown or tiara topping the crest, rather than the miter Pope Benedict chose — apparently very intentionally — when he was elected in 2005. 

“The pope’s coat of arms has not changed. It is what was explained at the beginning of his pontificate,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service this morning. 

The 2005 explanation of the elements of the pope’s crest — including the decision to replace the traditional tiara with a bishop’s miter — is available  on the Vatican website

The tapestry featuring the pope's official coat of arms -- with a miter. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“The Holy Father Benedict XVI decided not to include the tiara in his official personal coat of arms. He replaced it with a simple miter, which is not, therefore, surmounted by a small globe and cross as was the tiara. The papal miter shown in his arms, to recall the symbolism of the tiara, is silver and bears three bands of gold (the three powers: Orders, Jurisdiction and Magisterium), joined at the centre to show their unity in the same person.” 

Father Lombardi said Sunday’s tapestry — the one with the tiara — was a gift, hung “without any intention of changing the crest.” 

He also said, “If it is used again, it will be modified” to match the pope’s official coat of arms, featuring the miter.

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