No sign of Francis frugality in clerical cloth trade

Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:35am EST
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By Naomi O'Leary

ROME (Reuters) - As the Vatican prepares to welcome 19 prelates to the high rank of cardinal, Pope Francis' call for frugality has had little effect on business for the Gammarelli family, suppliers of sumptuous clerical robes for more than two centuries.

In January, when he announced plans to create new cardinals and set the ceremony's date for this Saturday, Francis also sent them a letter asking that they not see their appointment as a promotion and not to waste money holding celebratory parties.

He also said they should be "clothed in the virtues and sentiments of the Lord Jesus" as they help him run the Church.

Since a cardinal's ceremonial outfit is regulated by tradition, the pope was speaking figuratively.

Still, after such a papal statement one might expect to see a boost in clerical hand-me-downs or a rush to discount shops.

But there has been no slump in business for Rome's high-end ecclesiastical tailors, favored by clergy for the quality and stylish finish famous in Italian craftsmanship.

Lorenzo Gammarelli, the sixth generation of the family which has been outfitting popes and prelates since 1798, said frugality has yet to trickle down, and that demand for fine red woolen socks, lace vestments and cassocks is unchanged.

The elbow-length cape the mozzetta, lace rochet and square hat the biretta worn by cardinals differ in price depending on the quality of materials used, but Gammarelli said there was no sign prelates were switching to less luxurious fabrics.   Continued...

Cardinals vestments are seen on display at the window of the Gammarelli tailor shop in Rome February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi