The Italian shoemaker from Novara, known as one of the Pope's shoemakers, was on hand today at the weekly general audience to present Benedict XVI with two pairs of shoes, one red and one made of white satin, reported L'Osservatore Romano.
Stefanelli revealed that the pair of white satin shoes is the exact same style he made for Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, except that the patriarch preferred his in black satin.
"It is a small sign to reinforce the desire for Christian unity," he said. The 62-year-old cobbler noted that the idea isn't a new one for him, as in previous years he has sent similar shoes to the former Russian Patrarich Alexei II, and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
The 62-year-old artisan began to make shoes for Pope John Paul II in 2003 when he saw the "suffering John Paul II on television" and wanted to help in some way to "alleviate his pain."
"I know how to make shoes and I will give him shoes," he had said to himself.
Stefanelli has also made five pairs of shoes for Benedict XVI, as well as a pair of house slippers and two pairs of hiking shoes for when he vacations in the Italian Alps. The cobbler revealed that all shoes are handmade with techniques he learned from his father, and that it takes about 30 days to make one pair.
Shoes for a Pope, he noted, must be simple, "without elaboration and with a very subtle anti-slip layer in the leather."
The shoemaker said he takes great pleasure in seeing the Pope wear his shoes, and especially when they start to look "used and worn," which means for a cobbler that the shoes must be "comfortable."