Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Sheperd's Staff

I became interested in Ven. Pope John Paul Magnus' staff after his death when I saw that Pope Benedict XVI used it and then changed it. I was born and lived seeing John Paul carrying only "his" staff. I didn't even know there were others that existed. I researched and found out that the one PJPII uses isn't actually originally his but was handed down to him.

Ven. Pope John Paul II Magnus with his Crozier

The crucifix used by the Holy Father is technically his crozier, the shepherd staff that is the most senior ecclesiastical insignia of the bishop and represents his pastoral authority. As bishops and the shepherds of the Universal Church, the popes have used the crozier, but ceased doing so in the 11th century. Traditionally, the crozier traces its origins back all the way to the Apostles, and it is known to have been used in the traditional form by bishops(with an ornamental crook) from the time of Pope Celestine I (r. 422-432).

Pope Paul VI instituted a change upon his election. Rather than use a traditional crozier – seen as a symbol of jurisdictional authority – the pontiff adopted what was termed a pastoral staff. The staff was designed by Italian artist Lello Scorzelli in the shape of a crucifix in the 1960s. The staff was retained by both Popes John Paul I and John Paul II. In 1990, a new, slightly re-designed staff was presented to the pontiff in honor of his birthday. It was made lighter for PJPII who was becoming frail.

In his early years PJPII used this
ancient triple cross staff on this special event:
opening the Holy Doors of the Lateran Basilica

The papal cross or ferula is an emblem of the papal court. As a material cross, it was carried before the Roman pontiff in processions or was used by him as his pastoral staff.

In the past, this design of the cross was often used in ecclesiastical heraldry, as a distinctive mark of his office. It has three horizontal bars near the top, in diminishing order of length as the top is approached. It is thus analogous to the two-barred cross used in heraldry to indicate an archbishop, and seems to have been used precisely to indicate an ecclesiastical rank still higher than that of archbishop.

Symbolism connected with the papal powers have been attached to the three crossbars, similar to the symbolism attached, with greater historical foundation, to the three bands on the papal tiara. The crossbars have also been said to represent the three crosses on Calvary.

At the start of his reign,
Pope Benedict still used the Scorzelli Staff

The three-barred Papal Cross shown on this page is used only for extraordinary ceremonial occasions, such as opening the Holy Door. And whilst the occasion might include some sort of procession, this cross is not strictly speaking a Processional Cross; rather, it is used as an archbishop would use his crozier1.

Like the Byzantine Cross, the bars symbolise the titulus at the top for the sign-board, patibulum in the middle for the victims arms, and suppedaneum beneath for the feet. They also correspond to several ecclesiological positions, including:

  • the Pope's triple roles as leader of worship, teacher and community leader
  • the Pope's triple religious authorities as Bishop of Rome, Patriarch of the West, and successor of St Peter, Chief of the Apostles
  • the Pope's powers and responsibilities: temporal, spiritual, and material
  • the Pope's extra bar of authority over the two-bar Archiepiscopal or Patriarchal cross

and tenets, such as:

  • the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love2
  • the Trinity

Another Crozier Pope Benedict used which I have yet to identify

On 16 March 2008, at the Palm Sunday celebrations in Saint Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI used the Papal Cross that had been previously used by Popes Pius IX and Pius XII. This cross was used until 28 November 2009. The replacement cross was a gift of the Circolo San Pietro (an organization founded in the 19th century to support the papacy) and, according to Msgr. Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, it "can be considered to all intents and purposes the pastoral staff of Benedict XVI."

Pope Benedict with the 19th Century Staff
used by Blessed Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII

From Various Web Sources


  1. The "FERULA" - (proper term) or Crosier you are trying to VERIFY is distinctly Pope Benedict's own. It was a gift by the Circolo San Pietro, which was first used for the First Vespers for Advent last year. On the front side of the new ferula is depicted in the centre the Lamb of God, and on the four points of the cross, the symbols of the four Evangelists. The arms of the cross are decorated in a net-like pattern which evokes the fisherman whose successor Pope Benedict is. On the backside there is in the centre the Chi-Rho, the monogram of Christ, and on the four points of the cross, four Fathers of Occident and Orient, Augustine and Ambrose, Athanasius and John Chrysostom, the same who also carry Bernini's cathedra. On the top of the shaft is the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI.

    I hope this helps.

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