Cheetah print vestments and more

News of Pope Francis’ travels to Cuba and Mexico reminded me of some great chasubles on display at the excellent Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. These vestments were presented to Pope John Paul II during his visits to Africa. (Click to enlarge.)

At first I was especially surprised to see the fuchsia chasuble with the Pope’s face. The priest wears vestments to hide himself, so to speak, and become “another Christ” (alter Christus) on the altar. After a little research, though, I found that these kinds of “portrait cloths” are an important part of African textile culture. What a world!

Although these vestments would be out of place in most parts of the U.S., the Church, in her wisdom, allows for adaptations to liturgical furnishings (and, in some cases, the liturgical rites themselves) to suit local customs. Sacrosanctum Concilium states:

37. Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples’ way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.