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Vatican Goes Glossy: Pope Benedict XVI Poses for a Calendar

Calendars are no longer the exclusive domain of blithe golden retrievers, narcissistic felines and scantily-clad swimsuit models. The market is expending and the German-born Pontifex Maximus is jumping on the bandwagon.

A flag with the photo of Pope Benedict XVI fluttering int he wind against the blue sky

The Roman pontif has given a new, deeper meaning to high fashion

Pope Benedict XVI may be a conservative theologian and staunch believer in the Catholic dogma, but when it comes to fashion, he is on the cutting edge. With his penchant for designer sunglasses, padded quilt jackets and exclusive Italian footwear, the 79-year-old leader of the Catholic Church is continuing to attract ecumenical amazement from the world's leading fashionistas.

The pope's red shoes

Nobody can deny that Benedict XVI is a man of style

What the pope has done to red Prada shoes is what the cult US TV series "Sex and the City" did to Manolo Blahniks. It brought the world of high fashion closer to the common man.

If fashion is the new universal language which transcends borders imposed by religion and culture, then Papa Ratzi -- as the former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is affectionately called by his adoring fans -- is the true herald of sublime color and graceful style. For a while, gray was the new black. Then black was the new black. These days -- and largely thanks to papal gorgeous footwear -- red is the new gray.

It should come as no surprise that the time has arrived for an ultimate test of the pope's celebrity status: an illustrated calendar. Good-bye, Sports Illustrated! Good-bye Victoria's Secret! Hello, Vatican Uncovered!

A year with the pope

The 2007 calendar containing 14 exclusive shots of the 79-year-old Roman pontiff and entitled "Together -- A Year with the Pope" will appear in Italy on Nov. 23 together with the Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana. It will cost 5 euros ($6).

Two members of the Swiss Guard adjusting their oppulent outfits

The pope's fashion-conscious Swiss Guards

"This has nothing to do with other calendars, we have our own style and a distinct target," the magazine's Patrizia Brero told dpa. "Our readers wouldn't have appreciated a calendar featuring television starlets or nude models."

The photographs for this unique glossy calendar were taken over the summer at the pope's residence in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, by photographer Giancarlo Giuliani. This is the first time in history that a pope has posed for a photographer.

For every copy sold, one euro off the sales price will be donated to a charitable organization for children in Rwanda. The charity was selected by the pope in person.

Look, ma, it's a new pope

The slogan chosen by Famiglia Cristiana to sell the calendar -- "You'll see a new pope every day" -- remains somewhat puzzling considering that there will be only 14 pictures of the pope in the calendar: one for each month and two on the cover.

A combo picture of Pope Benedict XVI and Mexican pop singer Shakira

According to a 2005 poll, Benedict XVI and Shakira were the world's most popular photo personalities

How will the faithful manage to see a new pope every day is not exactly clear. Those who are expecting embedded high-tech displays, special effects or simple, old-fashioned miracles may end up having their hopes frustrated.

Seeing a new pope in the same old picture every day will probably require deep religious commitment or, alternatively, a couple of glasses of Chianti or Pino Grigio.

It has become tradition in Italy for magazines to offer calendars to their readers this time of the year.

The world's best-known calendar is Italian. Published since 1964, the Pirelli calendar usually features naked models or liberally undressed celebrities photographed by some of the world's most famous photographers.


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