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World News

Leap of faith - papal ambassador criticised for donning leopard print vestment

by Donna Birrell

The papal ambassador to Slovakia has gone viral on social media in Italy after wearing a leopard print chasuble to celebrate Mass.

Archbishop Nicola Girasoli who is 66, wore the garment at a special service in his hometown of Ruvo di Puglia in southern Italy at the beginning of September. He was conducting the service alongside Bishop Domenico Cornacchia of Molfetta, in honour of Father Salvatore Summo, who was marking his 40th anniversary as pastor of the local cathedral.

Photographs which had been posted on the cathedrals’ Facebook page were removed after comments were posted labelling the attire ‘disgraceful’ and ‘distressing’. The Cathedral issued a clarification saying :

“Given the particular interpretations, it is specified that the chasuble worn for the celebration is part of the official liturgy of the poor African peoples in which the celebrant has always been interested during his pastoral mandate.

“We realise that the disrespectful comments are due to lack of knowledge…and you’re asked to correct the inappropriate interpretations.”

The Catholic Herald reported that one commentator had come to Girasoli’s defence, noting that when Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Mozambique in September 2019, he wore a chasuble for the occasion dotted with brown embroidery intended to invoke images of leopard skin.

A chasuble is an outer garment worn by priests for liturgical celebrations.

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