The hidden meanings of Pope Benedict XVI’s ruby-red shoes

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, observers across the globe noted with interest that he had opted for red outdoor shoes, reviving a centuries-old tradition that had lately gone dormant. Red dress shoes, worn by anyone, are a statement. But for Pope Benedict XVI, who died Saturday at 95, the statement may have been about his relationship with the Catholic church — and how he saw his role in it.

Historically, all popes wore red shoes — before Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, whose tenure lasted nearly three decades,exercised his right to opt out and switched to a more demure burgundy. (They also wore red indoor slippers, before Pope Paul VI discontinued the practice, for good, in 1963.)

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