“Why does the Pope wear a yarmulke?” It always struck me that a Pope wears a Yarmulke, but people really don’t take notice of that. You know, that small, white beanie that the
Pope wears on his head in public and in the liturgy the same as rabbi’s and orthodox Jewish men wear, though not necessarily white. To be certain, the Pope does not refer to it as a yarmulke, but as a zucchetto, which is Italian for a guord. The zucchetto is a round cap of eight triangular panels that have been sewn together. The cap somewhat resembles half of a small pumpkin, hence the name “little gourd” or zucchetto.
The official Latin name for this little skullcap worn by Catholic clergy is pileolus. It is also called
soli deo (Latin for “to God alone”) because it is a sign that a man is dedicated to God. Zucchettos are
color-coded to denote rank in the Catholic Church, i.e., the Pope wears a white zucchetto, cardinals wear red zucchettos, bishops wear purple zucchettos, and priests wear black zucchettos, though priests nowadays rarely wear them.
There is no doubt, given the Jewish Roots of Christianity, we know from the Torah that the Israelite Priest’s wore head coverings (turbans) in the Holy Temple. Covering the head in the presence of God was a sign of humility. This same act of humility carried over and was also observed in ancient Rome.
Although, Moses never commanded Jewish laymen to cover their heads, Jewish men began to observe the custom primarily because the act of covering the head symbolized that a man was a spiritual servant under God. Rabbi Honah ben Joshua was know for saying that he never walked more than four steps with his head uncovered, “because the Divine Presence is always over my head.”
While Jews may wear any kind of hat, the most common hat is the skullcap known as the kippah meaning “dome” in Hebrew. It is commonly designated by the Yiddish word for the skullcap—yarmulke. The word “yarmulke” derives from the Polish word for cap—jarmulke. Call it a religious skullcap a zucchetto, pileolus, soli Deo, kippah, or yarmulke- it all stems from Judaism. It designates that a man is a servant of the Most High.
It’s another discussion on how it came to be that “priest” came to be exclusive with the Catholic Church later on, though it’s origins is from Judaism.