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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 December 2005, 05:07 GMT
'Santa Pope' woos Vatican crowds
Pope Benedict XVI in a fur-lined red velvet hat
The pope might just be able to carry off the Christmas look
Pope Benedict XVI appears to be getting into a different kind of Christmas spirit, donning a Santa-style hat for his weekly appearance at the Vatican.

At a chilly St Peter's Square, the Pope draped a red cloak over his shoulders and covered his head with a red velvet hat lined with white fur.

Vatican officials said the hat, known as a camauro, has been part of the papal wardrobe since the 12th century.

But it has not been worn in public since the death of John XXIII in 1963.

Riding the popemobile and waving to crowds, the 78-year-old pontiff smiled as he was cheered into the square.

Follower of fashion

Although missing Father Christmas' trademark white furry bobble, the pope's timely discovery of the long-forgotten camauro seemed as much a nod to the season as to the chilly weather.

The traditional Santa Claus figure is based on Saint Nicholas - a bishop in fourth century Lycia, now part of modern Turkey.

Ordinarily, the pope covers his head with a more traditional white skullcap, which he donned instead of the camauro by the time he reached his podium in the square.

Benedict, who was elected pope in April after the death of John Paul II, has already made a sartorial mark in the Holy See.

He is reported to favour medieval-style red slippers over more practical shoes while padding around his Vatican apartments.

Fashion-watchers have also reported spotting the pope wearing Gucci sunglasses and Prada shoes in recent months.


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