Animal rights activists in Italy want the cat-loving Pope Benedict XVI to stop wearing fur lining on his hats and robes.

The Italian Association for Defense of Animals and the Environment has started an online campaign to pressure the pope to do away with his affinity for ermine fur-trimmed garments, Reuters reported.

Nearly 1,900 people have signed the petition on the Internet, which cites the pontiff's affection for cats that inspired the children's book "Joseph and Chico," narrated by a feline and based on a real cat that befriended the pope. Before he was elected pope, he took in another cat he had found on the street.

"The pope has a cat he loves a lot, so why doesn't he use it for one of his capes?" wrote one of the petitioners, who signed as Sergio Porcelli from Ercolano, near Naples.

Corriere della Sera newspaper printed photographs of the German-born Pope Benedict along with a predecessor, Pope John XIII, wearing white fur-trimmed hats and capes, according to Reuters.

The snowy fur is the winter coat of the stoat, an Ermine weasel whose fur in the summer is brown. It has for centuries been used as the lining on ceremonial crowns, caps and the robes of popes, monarchs and judges.

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