In the middle of Pope Benedict XVI's new book is a story about a hat, and it sheds light on the trials and tribulations of the modern papacy.
The book's interviewer, German journalist Peter Seewald, recalled a public appearance one winter day when the pope donned the "camauro," a red velvet cap trimmed with ermine that was last worn by Pope John XXIII. Seewald suggested this was one of those subtle signals that marked a return to the old ways of the church.
In reading the pope's answer, one can almost hear him sighing.
"I wore it only once. I was just cold, and I happen to have a sensitive head. And I said, since the camauro is there, let's put it on. But I was really just trying to fight off the cold," he said.
The pope's appearance in the cap caused a minor uproar in the media, which saw it as a kind of pre-Vatican II fashion statement. In the book, the pope said he hasn't put it on since that day, "in order to forestall over-interpretation."
"Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times" is that kind of book: It deflates myths, explains papal decisions and offers unexpected insights, leaving the German pontiff in much clearer focus.