Besides speculations on who will be the next head of the Roman Catholic Church after Pope Benedict XVI steps down Thursday, a growing number of people are also interested in another question - Will the new pope wear Prada or Stefanelli red shoes?
Although the Vatican has clarified that the retiring pope does not wear Prada, the rumour continued to hound his eight-year reign as leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Blame it on Meryl Streep, who made the iconic fashion brand more popular in her 200X movie.
which gave rise to cartoons like this one.
The pair of ruby red shoes that retiring Pope Benedict XVI will leave behind in Vatican was made by Italian cobbler Adriano Stefanelli.
However, media accounts indicate that another designer had made a pair of red shoes too for the pope. Washington Post pointed to Peruvian designer Antonio Arellano as the man behind the iconic red shoes. He actually met the pope when the latter still went by the name Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who visited his shop one day.
Mr Stefanelli is apparently the official papal shoemaker since Pope Benedict actually ordered another pair, a red hiking boots, from him and the cobbler gifted him with a third red pair during the pope's visit to Germany.
The red shoe that Mr Arellano made for Pope Benedict was the pair of moccasins that the pontiff wore for the beatification rite for Pope John Paul II in 2011.
The reports indicate that the pope appears to have at least four sets of red shoes - one bearing the Arellano brand and three the Stefanelli brand. Could he have had a fifth pair with the Prada brand which explains the rumours?
As the 116 cardinals elect among themselves who will be Pope Benedict XVI's successor, the new pope eventually will have to make the decision where to order his pair of red shoes - Prada, Stefanelli or Arellano?
Or maybe he could widen his choice and go for Gucci or Salvatore Ferragamo or Emporio Armani.
A Gucci pair such as the one below costs $585. It is a horsebit moccasin in Bordeaux leather.
This red pair of Armani lace-up shoes has a tag price of $595.
And this pair of Ferragamo Moc Toe Loafer with Gancio Bit retails for $640.
Mr Arellano has expressed willingness to make another pair of red shoes for the upcoming pope. If Mr Stefanelli wants to compete in case the new pontiff prefers one pair only of red shoes, the Italian cobbler could cite other celebrities as his customers such as U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michele Obama.
The next pope being a prayerful man would surely be guided by Divine Providence in selecting his shoemaker. With the issue handled, he can then turn to more pressing problems facing the Catholic Church such as the growing number of sex abuses cases involving the clergy.