In the Room of Tears, the new pontiff will choose one of three white vestments in either small, medium, or large along with a white cape for his first appearance before the world. Here he will lay down his red zucchetto (skull cap) and replace it with a white one. He will also find three pairs of meticulously made red shoes laid out for him in various sizes, ready and waiting to be broken in. He will choose the pair carefully – for the shoes will go wherever he goes – every step of the way. We know the new Pope faces critical issues in a world which tends to judge the Vicar of Christ mercilessly. Protecting life from conception to natural death, defending religious freedom and the dignity of marriage, ecclesiastic challenges, increasing economic strife and poverty, bringing lost sheep back to the flock, and reinforcing the universal call to holiness – are among some of the crucial issues awaiting the new Pontiff. If not for the aid of the Holy Spirit, it would be an impossible job to undertake.
As we await his introduction to the world by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Senior Cardinal Deacon, from the balcony of St. Peter’s with the words, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum – Habemus Papam!” [I announce a great joy to you. We have a Pope!] let us pray in a special way for the future Holy Father, for as his predecessor recently said, “the time of testing is here.” In leading the faithful through such challenging times, the new Pope has big red shoes to fill indeed.