This just in from APF, amazing! How did they get onto this so fast?–David and Alison
APR, Paris: Pope Benedict XVI Gives the Gift of Scarlet–not the sash of a cardinal, but his red slippers.
The pope's unexpected gift was reportedly sent to a little-known mystic described variously as a "saintly woman" and a "martyr" living in Paris, a country noted for its atheism and militantly secular state.
The woman's name will not be revealed "until the Conclave is over," according to an apostolic spokesperson currently with the pope in Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sources in Paris confirm that the red shoes arrived in a battered cardboard box. The box was also said to contain copies of a book about pilgrimage.
"The strange thing is, the book's title suggests that the author is not a man of faith," said a representative of the Apostolic See of France. The courier service that delivered the box this morning to an address in central Paris confirmed the title.
"The sub-title of the book is 'A Skeptic Pilgim Walks the Way of Saint James,'" the shipping agent's representative added.
The Way of Saint James, better known by its Spanish name as El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, links Paris to the saint's shrine in Galicia, Spain.
The author and pilgrim, David Downie, an American living in Paris, was unavailable for comment. His spokesperson confirmed that he is a "skeptic with a peculiar sense of humor." The complete title of the book is "Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James." The spokesperson added that, as far as he knew, the box contained author's copies of the book, and that the red shoes had not been sent by the publisher or the pope. "To the best of my knowledge," the spokesperson said, "the shoes were purchased that morning at a big-box store in Paris." The motive for the purchase appears to have been practical, not spiritual. "He bought them for her so that his wife, photographer Alison Harris, could comfortably continue the pilgrimage in America in April and May," explained the spokesperson.
The pilgrimage is now "a book tour," according to another spokesperson in New York, speaking on behalf of the publisher of the book, Pegasus Books. The publication date of the title is April 15 (May 1 in London).
When questioned about the book and tour, the publisher's representative acknowledged that "it has been a long road," that the author and photographer walked about 1,100 kilometers (750 miles) across France, then spent "an incalculable amount of time" writing the book and assembling the photographs that fill 32 pages of inserts.
The photographer's name is Alison Harris. Vatican authories have refused to confirm whether Ms. Harris was the intended recipient of the scarlet slippers. "They would be too small for her feet," the apostolic spokesperson was quick to point out, "the pope wears a very small size."
"Maybe it was the Wizard of Oz who sent them," remarked the concierge at the building in Paris where the author and Harris live. "Monsieur Downie is often complaining that his wife takes a long time to make her pictures, and he wishes she wore magical slippers and could click the heels and catch up with him."
Paris to the Pyrenees book tour schedule: click here
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