September 6, 2006

Holy Saturno! It’s old hat for the pope again

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict has a thing for old hats, this time donning a wide-brimmed "saturno" for his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square on Wednesday.

It was the first time the 79-year-old German pontiff has worn the red hat, known in Italian as a saturno because it is vaguely reminiscent of the ringed planet Saturn.

Pope John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963, used a saturno and John Paul II, who died last year, wore one occasionally during trips to hot countries.

It was not the first time Pope Benedict has donned a strange-looking hat at an outdoor audience to shield himself against the weather.

Last December, to keep warm against the bitter cold, he wore a red velvet cap, trimmed with white fur.

That hat, known as a "camauro," was commonly worn by popes in the medieval period to keep their heads warm on cold days and it featured on many paintings at the time.