VATICAN CITY — In a unique effort to help promote Christian unity, the pope’s shoemaker has made the same pair of shoes for both Pope Benedict XVI and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.
Italian cobbler Adriano Stefanelli fashioned a pair of white satin shoes for the pope and the same exact style in black for the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“It’s a small sign for strengthening the desire for Christian unity,” he told the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Aug. 25.
He said he’s done this before: making similar pairs for the pope and Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as well as for the late Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.
While he mailed Patriarch Kirill his pair, Stefanelli — who’s from Novara in northern Italy — personally presented the pope with his new shoes at the end of today’s general audience at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
He gave the pope the white satin pair and a new pair of “ruby red” leather shoes, which the pope often wears in public.
It’s of course a myth that the pope’s shoes are made by Prada. Since 2003, Stefanelli has been one of a number of papal shoemakers.
Since Pope Benedict’s election in 2005, the 62-year-old artisan has donated five pairs of hand-sewn shoes as well as one pair of “house slippers” and two pairs of hiking shoes to the pope. He’s also made shoes for Pope John Paul II, U.S. President Barack Obama and Lech Walesa.
When he crafts the pope’s shoes, Stefanelli says he aims for a simple design with nothing fancy and he adds “a very thin layer of anti-skid tread” to the leather sole.
Interesting tidbit: Pope Benedict’s shoe size is a 42, which in the U.S. is an 8 1/2 men’s.