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Fur flies over pope

Pope Benedict’s fondness for fur trim on his hats and capes has come under fire from an Italian animal rights group, which has launched an online petition to persuade the pontiff to switch to synthetics.

Benedict has taken a traditional approach to papal formal wear, reviving the camauro, an ermine-trimmed red-velvet hat favoured by the 17th-century pope, as well as donning a cape trimmed with ermine, which is the white winter coat of the stoat.

But his use of ermine, long favoured by kings, judges and nobles, has drawn the ire of the Italian Association for the Defence of Animals and the Environment, which had by last week gathered 2 260 signatures for its petition.

“The pope has often talked about protecting the environment and we are asking that he acknowledges that animals, as God’s creation, also deserve respect,” said the organisation’s head, Lorenzo Croce.

Benedict’s use of fur was defended yesterday by Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo. “Aren’t there more important battles to wage?” he asked. “There are human beings who merit more urgent assistance that no one is taking care of. And if we eat animals, we can wear them.”

Animal lovers signing the petition may be hoping that a pope known for his fondness for cats may eventually extend his love to stoats and weasels.

In an interview in 2000, before becoming pope, Benedict said he opposed factory farming and the fattening of geese to make foie gras. “Animals too are God’s creatures,” he said, “creatures we must respect as companions in creation and as important elements in creation.”–

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