The Franciscans in Assisi have begun to wear a new habit, created by a Milan fashion designer, the Telegraph reports. The black pleated habit used by the Franciscans' Third Regular Order for 150 years, not only "weighed a ton," but looked "cliched," and failed to reflect their philosophy, the newspaper said. Elisabetta Bianchetti, a specialist designer who has created robes for cardinals and bishops, was asked to produce something "simpler, cleaner, more dynamic and professional." She came up with a charcoal gray model in lightweight wool. Besides being much lighter than the present black wool habit that weighs seven pounds, the trim new design has breast pockets in which the brothers can keep their mobile telephones. The friars, say they are pleased with the results. They say the new habits are more practical and comfortable. However not everyone is happy with the break from tradition. Religious journalist Vittorio Messori said: "St Francis did not distinguish between friars and the poor, and for that reason he chose to wear a piece of rough wool with a hole in the middle of it. To remain faithful to that spirit today, friars should be dressing in the same way as down-and-outs. But the problem remains: Where would one keep one's mobile phone?" A Franciscan spokesman, Fr Lino Temperini, said the design being brought in now was in fact based on a cross between what had been worn by St. Francis himself, and an old habit designed in 1447. He added: "To return to a more modern, humbler style, which is based on a much older one, we are returning to the simplicity which we are supposed to be all about."
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