Why Does the Pope Wear a Kippah?


You probably know that Pope Francis visited Israel not long ago. While he definitely stood out from the crowd, there was one way in which be blended right in: his kippah. Or whatever that is on his head.

What he’s wearing is actually called a zucchetto—that’s Italian for “small gourd.” If you’ve been wondering about it, you’re not the only one. It turns out all ordained Catholic clergy (and some Anglicans, too) are entitled to wear one—though unlike Jews, it’s not a religious custom. In fact, the tradition began out of a very common problem: a cold head. And the colors? The pope gets to wear white. Not the Pope? You wear another color, depending on your vocation. John Paul II (now Saint Pope John Paul II) had a practice of giving his away to a person who brought him one as a gift.

What are some other differences between a kippah and a zucchetto?

There’s also the aesthetics. For one thing, look closely, and you’ll see that the zucchetto has a small stem at the top (just like a small gourd, get it?). For another, they’re always lined. That extra layer could come in mighty handy next time it snows in Jerusalem.


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