Careful observers at Saturday’s consistory may have noticed the retro style of Pope Benedict’s gold-embroidered miter. In fact, the pope was wearing a piece of history: this particular miter belonged to Pope Pius IX, who reigned in the late 1800s.
The pope also used an antique, carved gilded throne during the consistory, instead of the plainer altar chair employed in most papal liturgies in recent years. This one was said to have been used by Pope Leo XIII, who died in 1903.
Some saw significance here. This was the first big liturgy overseen by Msgr. Guido Marini, the new master of pontifical liturgical celebrations, and Vatican-watchers were on the lookout for “traditionalist” touches.
The pope’s silk cope also caught people’s attention. The long golden cloak, so voluminous that it required two prelates to hold it during the entrance procession, incorporated 15th-century embroidered images of saints. In a sense, it was another historical artifact, although the Vatican said it had been worn by Pope John Paul II.
Perhaps the most traditional element of the consistory was that it was held in St. Peter’s Basilica. With bad weather forecast, officials decided to move the ceremony inside, leaving a choice: the basilica or the Vatican’s audience hall.
The audience hall seats many more people, and was used by Pope John Paul for consistories during inclement weather. But it’s not a church, and that seemed to be the determining factor this time around.
For the ring Mass with the new cardinals on Sunday, the older elements had disappeared. The pope wore a modern miter, and was back sitting on an upholstered throne.