Shoes as message | Inquirer Opinion

Shoes as message

“Didn’t the dark leather shoes that Pope Francis wore at Tuesday’s installation rites remind you of Imelda Marcos?” a friend asked. No. Should they?

Imelda left 1,080 pairs of shoes in Malacañang when the Marcoses fled People Power. Her shoes were a tutorial, this friend insisted. Those overstuffed shoe racks, which Imelda embodied, symbolized the dreams of pauperized Filipinos for better tomorrows.

Tell that to Buenos Aires residents who had gifted Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio with a pair of shoes. Dump your down-at-the-heel shoes, they told “Padre Jorge,” Alexander Stille wrote in the New Yorker. Use this new pair instead. Bergoglio, who had booked a return flight (economy class) to Buenos Aires from the conclave, wore the shoes as the new



BBC contrasted Pope Francis’ shoes with the red leather loafers that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, used. Those were cobbled by Adriano Stefanelli. Shoes were one of Francis’ messages by action.

After his election, he waved aside the  mozzeta, or red papal cape, and wore instead a plain white cassock before stepping out onto the loggia to greet the people. He opted for a plain “fisherman’s ring” and a simple pectoral cross. “There’s enough room here for 300,” he said of the papal apartments. “I don’t need all this space.”

He discarded the texts prepared by Vatican bureaucrats. Without mercy, the world would crumble, an old woman had told him. “I asked her if she’d taught theology at Gregorian University,” he joked about the Jesuit university in Rome.

Stripping away frills meant “showing loving concern for [all], especially the children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think of.” He linked that challenge to “respecting the environment… Those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life” must be “protectors of creation … which open up a horizon of hope.”


“Where is the soaring eagle circling above the land and the colorful  kalaw (hornbill)?” asked Philippine bishops in their 1998 pastoral letter. “Now they are silenced.” The scars on nature will lead inevitably to an increase in political and social unrest.” This is … the ultimate prolife issue. Many religions, including the Church, have been slow to respond to the ecological crisis… There is a great need for a Filipino theology of creation … in preaching, catechetical programs, schools. “At the root of the problem we see an exploitative mentality, which is at variance with the Gospel of Jesus. This expresses itself in acts of violence against fellow Filipinos…”

Recall Fr. Charlito Colendres and Typhoon “Yoyong” that hit Aurora and Quezon in 2004. Father Chia flayed illegal logging in Aurora. “This morning, he was restless and deeply affected in his homily,” Carmelite nuns in Infanta  recalled. “He’d seen 54,000 board feet of timber waiting for release. But logging is banned.” By evening, flash floods had risen as high as two-story homes. Evacuees poured into Carmel. Hot logs smashed people to death, including Father Chia, who was then helping evacuate children.


It’s been 21 years since three men gunned down Fr. Nerilito Satur of Bukidnon. As a deputized forest ranger, Father Neri confiscated hot timber. The then bishop, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, authorized 41 priests to be deputized as forest guards. In October 1991, the Armed Forces filed charges against Sgt. Catalino Gabison and three members of the Guinoyoran militia garrison—Datu Bantu Domia, Crispin Onor, and Allan Cesar Abesta—and did little else. Impunity allows the guilty to go free.

Pope Francis’ call for greater environment care comes as scientists report that “global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years,” the New York Times reported on Thursday. Over the coming decades, temperatures are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last Ice Age. “We and other living things can adapt to slower changes,” said Dr. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University. “It’s the unprecedented speed with which we’re changing the climate that is so worrisome.”

“Trees fail to flower,” Aeta huddled in Bataan once told Fr. Shay Cullen. “Bees are disappearing. Storms blow away our nipa huts as never before.” The Aeta echo what scientists elsewhere note. Mean temperatures are rising by 0.14C per decade, says the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel on climate change. Since the 1980s, the annual mean rainfall has increased. “Yet two of the severest droughts ever recorded occurred.”

“All praise be yours, my Lord, for Brother Sun, who brings the day,” the 13th-century monk Francis of Assisi wrote in “Canticle of the Sun.”

“Praise too for Sister Moon, through whom you give us light…. Praise too for Sister Death, whose embrace no mortal can escape…” The number of shoes does not matter.

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TAGS: column, Juan L. Mercado, Pope, shoes, Vatican

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