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Why is Pope Francis carrying that stick?

SYNOD OF BISHOPS
Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA | I.MEDIA
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The Holy Father has been photographed carrying an usual looking staff

Those who have seen photos of Pope Francis carrying a rough-hewn, forked stick with a nail running through it that looks like something out of Lord of the Rings, may be wondering, “What’s up with that?”

The short answer: it was a gift from some young Italians attending the Synod on Youth Faith and Vocational Discernment, the month-long meeting of Catholic bishops that began on October 3.

The longer explanation: It’s a ferula (Latin for “rod”), which the pope carries during liturgical celebrations. Unlike an episcopal crosier, which is bent at the top like a shepherd’s crook, a ferula is capped with a cross. Popes carried crosiers until the 13th century, when the practice was phased out.

While Pope Francis normally alternates between Pope Paul VI and Benedict XVI’s ferulae, he sometimes carries different ones for special occasions.

© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA
The ferula of Pope Paul VI © Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

 

When he visited the island of Lampasas in Italy in July , 2013, for example, he used a ferula made from migrant boats.

This particular ferula was given to the pope by a group of young people attending the inauguration ceremony of the Synod last August.

“We have found that each path requires its own staff and on this special occasion we give you a ferula carved in wood,” explained a young Italian on behalf of all the other pilgrims, according to an iMedia report.

“It would be nice if this ferola accompanies you during the synod of young people,” she added. All of us gathered here could feel that we are at your side and connect our heart and our memory to this extraordinary meeting,” she said.

“Holy Father, we have come here to tell you that we love you very much and we want to walk forward together,” she added.

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