Zucchetto

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A zucchetto made for Pope John Paul II is displayed in a shop window on April 7, 2005 in memory of the pope's death.
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Plural zucchetti.

The zucchetto is a small skullcap worn by clerics of the Roman Catholic Church. It was first adopted for practical reasons — to keep the clergy's tonsured heads warm in cold, damp churches — and has survived as a traditional item of dress.

All ordained members of the church are entitled to wear the zucchetto. As with much ecclesiastical apparel, the colour of the zucchetto denotes the wearer's rank: the Pope's zucchetto is white, those worn by cardinals are red, and those worn by bishops are violet. Priests and deacons may wear a black zucchetto. A black zucchetto with red piping was formerly the mark of a monsignor, although this usage is now only rarely observed.

All clerics who hold the episcopal character (that is to say, bishops — whether the Pope, cardinals, titular bishops or diocesan bishops) wear the zucchetto throughout most of the Mass, removing it at the commencement of the Canon and replacing it at the conclusion of the Communion. No others are permitted to wear the zucchetto at Mass.

Although not a proper tradition, the late Pope John Paul II would give a guest the zucchetto he was wearing if presented with a new one as a gift. Many other popes held the same practice. If visiting the pope, one may wish to speak with his secretary beforehand about the practice, and confirm that the new zucchetto is the correct size and is otherwise appropriate.

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