What does that mean?

By Chicago Catholic
Sunday, November 27, 2016

What does that mean?

Bishops, archbishops and abbots use crosiers, or pastoral staffs modeled on a shepherd’s crook, to signify their pastoral care of souls. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
The red biretta is given to new cardinals during the consistory when they are elevated. Cardinals wear red to recall the blood of the martyrs. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
An archbishop’s ministry is symbolized by the pallium, a white wool stole meant to be reminiscent of a lamb being carried on the shoulders of a shepherd. The photo shows then-Archbishop Cupich wearing a bishop’s zuccheto. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Bishops wear rings as a mark of discretion and of their conjugal relationship to the church. Cardinals receive new rings to signify their fidelity to the pope. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In its more than 2,000-year history, the Catholic faith has picked up traditions and symbols filled with meaning and history. However, sometimes they can be confusing to understand or keep straight. The Catholic New World picked a few things to define.

An archbishop is the title borne by a bishop with authority over an archdiocese. He thus has full jurisdiction over his own diocese, but he may also be a metropolitan over an ecclesiastical province. Some archbishops are also considered “ad personam,” meaning that they hold the title without authority over an archdiocese as an honor bestowed upon them by the pope.

Cardinal Cupich remains archbishop of Chicago.

A cardinal is a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals and a high-ranking, powerful member of the church hierarchy. He gives assistance to the pope in the government of the church and has the important task of taking part in the election of a new successor of St. Peter. By canon law, all cardinals must be ordained priests; those who are not bishops at the time of their elevation are consecrated to the episcopacy. (Catholic Encyclopedia). Most, but not all, cardinals who are not members of the Roman curia are archbishops who lead archdioceses around the world.

Bishops and archbishops wear purple (or fuchsia) zucchettos, birettas, sashes, etc. Cardinals wear red stoles, zucchettos, birettas, etc. The red symbolizes the blood of the martyrs and signifies their willingness to shed their blood for the church. The color is so strongly associated with cardinals that becoming a cardinal is known as “receiving the red hat.” (The Church Visible)

Cardinals traditionally received a galero — a wide-brimmed red hat — upon elevation to the College of Cardinals. Although cardinals now receive the red biretta (a smaller hat with three peaks) during the consistory, the red galero, with its 15 tassels on either side, is added to the new cardinal’s coat of arms.

When a cardinal dies, his galero is hung above the crypt of his home cathedral and stays there until it disintegrates. Holy Name Cathedral has six galeros hanging above the sanctuary. An archbishop’s coat of arms features a green galero with 10 tassels on each side. (The Church Visible)


  • bishops
  • cardinal cupich
  • priests
  • cardinals
  • religious life

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