The wires are buzzing about Franco Zeffirelli’s offer to be an image consultant for Pope Benedict XVI, and serve as his “make-over” consultant. Frankly, it disturbs me quite a bit that a well established and extremely talented director and producer wants to tinker with the papal haberdashery. There are a lot of individuals that have often commented on the return of some of the traditional papal accessories since his canonical election a few years ago. Similar comments are often made about the return of pre-Vatican II rituals and vestments. However, it seems that Benedict XVI is perfectly capable of being his own public relations coordinator, especially with all of the resources of the Catholic Church at his disposal.

He is not John-Paul II and no one should expect him to encapsulate the same media image that the late Pontiff exhibited through his almost. “Rock-star” tour of his pontificate. The former Joseph Ratzinger is of a different demeanor, much more reserved than John-Paul. This change of papal temperament is an excellent example of the vast diversity the Church offers in its papal leaders, as well as the multicultural aspects of the current Bishop of Rome. The Pope’s role is not to portray an “on-stage” image that needs to be projected and finely tuned for the crowd’s appeal. The papal mission is much more sublime and intrinsically personal…it is his job to communicate the message and ministry of Jesus Christ to a world that desires spiritual and theological hope. Mr.Zeffirelli has indicated that he feels that the Pope conveys a “cold” image with the manner in which he presents himself, and with the restoration of traditional papal vestments, such as the mozzetta, and the camauro. This author however feels quite differently about the return of traditional papal vestments. These vestments reflect the rich tapestry that the Church has woven throughout history, each vestment, and each accessory contains a historically rooted purpose and reason. It is really a question about a reemergence of proper signs and symbols as they properly reflect the various hierarchical distinctions within the Catholic Church. The role of pope has a distinctive collection of wardrobe associated with the office from a liturgical and historical perspective; however no one should be led only by the external signs of papal office and authority. Benedict XVI is Peter, regardless of what type of personal image the secular media might suggest for improvement. In my mind, Benedict XVI is the physical embodiment of the goals and theological aspirations of all Catholics worldwide and there is nothing wrong with his, “image!” The Pope represents in his person Jesus Christ and quite honestly it is a great example of secular presumption to even imply let alone state that a cinema director feels that the Pope needs a makeover! The theological message and ministry of the Church is not determined by theatrical presentations or elaborate “set” designs, it is determined by the leadership and example of a single man that reflects the Church’s rich history and intrinsically relevant role in the modern world. The ministry of Peter is not based upon Neilson ratings or popular opinion; it is based upon the inspiration and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Mr.Zeffirelli…Benedict XVI does not need a makeover in any way shape or form in regards to his person or his papacy. What is really needed is a deeper understanding and appreciation by the secular world that Benedict’s role is about more than the superficial tangents that are applied by the media and individuals like Mr.Zeffirelli. The Pope’s role is about the development of hope in a world that desperately needs hope, and about God’s merciful love for all of mankind. The Catholic Church through the leadership of Benedict XVI is trying to communicate the message of peace and harmony in an extremely fragile world that is looking for Divine sanctification. Regardless of creed, denomination, race or nationality, the Pope offers universal hope to all of mankind. His image is perfectly fine and intact, the only “makeover” that is needed here is with the secular attitudes of Mr.Zeffirelli and anyone else that thinks about the Church in terms of media popularity!

Benedict XVI, keep doing what you are doing! The Church and indeed the world needs your gentle image of Christ’s love and compassion!

Hugh McNichol publishes a blog that writes about Catholic issues. It can be viewed at:

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