Outgoing pontiff Pope Benedict XVI will no longer wear his trademark red shoes, the famous papal footwear the color of which symbolizes the blood of the martyrs. Instead, the emeritus pope will flaunt a pair of handcrafted leather wine-red-colored loafers handmade by artisans in Mexico, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, has announced. “Mexicans will be happy to know that the pope very much appreciated the shoes” he received as a gift during his 2012 visit in León, Mexico, said Lombardi. “He finds them very comfortable.”
In an exclusive interview with Metro, Armando Martin Dueñas, chairman of Ackerman, the company in León that designed the shoe, says the Pope's gesture is the perfect validation that his workers are doing a exemplary job.
Q: How did it come about that the Pope will now wear your shoes?
A: The industry in León is run on leather goods and footwear, a tradition that dates back over 400 years. It is the economic sustenance of a region of 1.8 million inhabitants. When we made the pair of shoes for His Holiness, it was a token of appreciation, affection, love and kindness for being here [in León, Mexico], especially given his age and fragile condition.
For us, that he will wear the shoes is a way to confirm that he remembers us. It encourages and strengthens us that Benedict finds them comfortable and gives us the assurance that what we do we do well.
Q: What are the shoes' characteristics?
A: They are made in the color – wine red – and with the kind of leather that we saw fit to offer the Pope. The outside and lining of the shoe for His Holiness is made from the skin of an stillborn or prematurely born calf. This type of leather is very soft.
Q: Will you make this Pope shoe for general sale?
A: We already have had some requests for more shoes and we have given seven similar pairs to different priests and bishops. We have not marketed them, but it would give it us great pleasure if someone needs them – we are ready to provide them.
Q: Do you have more shoes of this type to send to the Vatican?
A: We have three pair of shoes ready to send which His Holiness now requires. We also have made others in black color for him.
Q: And how much would a pair of this kind cost?
A: It has never been given a price. It is a gift.
Q: How many shoes does your company make in one year? How many people work with you?
A: Our 65 staff make 83,000 pairs of shoes in one year.