How I ended up with the cap that belonged to Pope Pius XII

Family Fortunes: Moved by her story, his Holiness placed it on Katie’s mantilla-covered head

The Pope’s cap: He told her that she was more deserving of the cap than he was

The Pope’s cap: He told her that she was more deserving of the cap than he was

 

Recently while out walking, a lady asked if she could borrow “The Pope’s Cap”, explaining that her infant granddaughter was seriously ill in hospital and that she would love to put the cap on the child’s head. This is a small buckskin skull cap or zucchetto. It has become discoloured over the years and it has almost lost its shape but it once belonged to Pope Pius XII.

It came into our family in the 1960s when my grandmother Katie Foley went to Rome to visit her daughter Máire, a member of the Sacred Heart of Mary Order whose religious name was Sister Alphonsus. She’d joined the order when she was 16, her father waving her off from the quay in Waterford city and she was never to see him again as he died the following year at the age of 51.

Máire was able to arrange a private audience for her mother with Pope Pius XII as she had many contacts in the Vatican. Also the pope’s sister Marchese Elizabetta Pacelli Rossignani, and her daughter Countess Elena, were living in the convent.

He told her that she was more deserving of the cap than he was

After the Pope blessed my grandmother he spoke to her and learned that she was the mother of 12 and that she had been widowed at a young age. Moved by her story, his Holiness reached up, took off his cap and placed it on Katie’s mantilla-covered head. He told her that she was more deserving of the cap than he was.

Over the years it has been brought to the bedside of sick and elderly neighbours. My grandmother would place it on the person’s head and say a silent prayer. Often when she was holding it in position it was as if power was transferring from one to the other. Today we keep the cap in a handmade satin purse, stored between two table cloths in our sideboard drawer and in our family and in the surrounding area it is held in very high regard.

We treasure this little relic. Although I cannot attribute any miracles to it, like the lady I met on the walk, putting on the small cap can bring consolation and for just a few moments, relief from the worries, which I think is a miracle in itself.

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