The papal ambassador to Slovakia has been criticized after photos of him celebrating Mass in a leopard print chasuble went viral on social media.
The veteran Vatican diplomat Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, wore the vestment at a special service in his hometown of Ruvo di Puglia in southern Italy early this month.
He was celebrating a mass alongside Bishop Domenico Cornacchia of Molfetta, in honor of Father Salvatore Summo, who was marking his 40th anniversary as pastor of the local cathedral.
Photos of the mass went viral throughout Italy after it was posted to the cathedral’s Facebook page. The photos were later removed after comments were posted labeling the attire ‘disgraceful’, ‘distressing’ and a “loss of style,”
Following the growing criticism even after the removal of the photos, the Cathedral issued a statement on Facebook clarifying Girasoli’s choice.
“Given the particular and sui generis interpretations, it is specified that the chasuble worn for the celebration is part of the official liturgy of the poor African peoples in which the celebrant has always been interested during his pastoral mandate, and was worn to thank the Lord for the construction of a house for the most needy of those territories,” the statement read.
“We realize that the disrespectful comments are due to lack of knowledge,” the message said, “and you’re asked to correct the inappropriate interpretations.”
However, one commentator according to Crux Independent defended Girasoli’s amid the growing criticism. He noted that when Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Mozambique in September 2019, he wore a chasuble for the occasion dotted with brown orphreys intended to invoke images of leopard skin.
Girasoli was the papal ambassador to Mali, Zambia, and the Antilles from 2006 to 2011. He was the envoy to various Caribbean countries from 2011 to 2017.
From 2006 to 2011, Girasoli was the papal ambassador to Mali, Zambia, and to the Antilles and other Caribbean nations from 2011 to 2017. Before being moved to his current position in 2022, he represented the Vatican in Peru.