While certainly never holding the title of herald and not being appointed as an officer of arms in any way by anyone this man was, in his own way, the most extraordinary of contributors to the world, the science and the art of heraldry. It can be said that he was a kind of “herald of the Church” during his long career as a Churchman and Papal diplomat. A one-time assistant to the then Nuncio to France, Angelo Cardinal Roncalli (later Bl. Pope John XXIII), the first Pro-Nuncio to the United Kingdom and the first Papal diplomat above the rank of Apostolic Delegate in England in the modern era since the Reformation as well as the man who quite literally wrote the book on ecclesiastical heraldry in the Roman Catholic Church: Archbishop Bruno Bernard Heim. His original work, “Coutumes et Droits d’Heraldique de l’Eglise” was later expanded and republished with lavish illustrations as “Heraldry in the Catholic Church” (1978). This Swiss priest and diplomat designed the coats of arms for Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II. One can only imagine what the outspoken Helvetian would have made of the arms of Pope Benedict XVI or, far worse, the arms of the present pope. He was, in my opinion, the most knowledgeable person in the XX Century on the subject of ecclesiastical heraldry. As far as I’m concerned one need only justify a particular point of heraldic design or art by saying, “Heim says so”. He was also tremendously knowledgeable about heraldry in general. His book is a must read for anyone interested in the topic in addition to the four other books on heraldry he authored. Sadly, his influence over the revival of good heraldic practices in the Church is beginning to wane since his death in 2003 at age 92.
I know of a few priests that have a number of the adornments that this noble prelate has , but would never match him. Bruno was a great man. I had dinner with him on a number of occasions and his secretary, now Bishop of Arundell and Brighton and many a story to tell about those stars hanging upon the noble prelates breast. Sadly a bygone day has past…… or has it