A Priest Among the Cardinals

On November 28, 2020 Pope Francis created new cardinals. Among them was Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap (86) who, for the past forty years, has served as the Preacher of the Pontifical Household. Given his advanced age Cardinal Cantalamessa requested to be dispensed from the requirement of receiving episcopal ordination prior to receiving his red hat. While it is not unprecedented it is still rather rare for a Cardinal of the Roman Church not to be a bishop as well. (Contrary to an erroneous idea that never seems to die there were no “lay cardinals” in the Church. All the cardinals who were members of the College of Cardinals previously but had not received ordination were, nevertheless, tonsured clerics and, therefore, NOT members of the laity).

Following the correct customs which are sometimes ignored by the foolish or the ignorant (see: the coat of arms of the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ), Cardinal Cantalamessa ensigns his coat of arms with the scarlet cardinal’s galero but does not make use of the episcopal cross behind the shield because he lacks the episcopal character. As a cardinal, he may make use of pontifical insignia when celebrating Mass solemnly (the mitre, the ring and the crozier) and he may wear a pectoral cross. He also has the option of wearing scarlet cardinal’s robes or his own Religious Habit. It was interesting to note that at the Public Consistory at which he was created a cardinal he wore his habit with a surplice and did not wear the scarlet choir dress of a cardinal.

Ad Multos Annos!

4 thoughts on “A Priest Among the Cardinals

  1. Paul

    “at the Public Consistory at which he was created a cardinal he wore his habit with a surplice and did not wear the scarlet choir dress of a cardinal.”

    This sort of thing is likely a product of the abolition of the order-specific cardinalatial forms of dress, no?

    1. guyselvester Post author

      No, I don’t think so. Prelates who are Religious may wear their religious habit with a pectoral cross and zuchetto of the appropriate color if they wish. However, they may also dress as secular prelates do. Most of them, on solemn occasions -like a Consistory- would wear the appropriate choir dress. In fact, I happen to know a Franciscan prelate who prefers to wear his habit but when going to functions at the Vatican has been specifically requested to wear choir dress. This would be especially true for cardinals. In fact, there were other Religious created Cardinals today as well and they all wore scarlet choir dress. I think this was a personal preference of Cardinal Cantalamessa and I think it was permitted because of his long and faithful service in the papal household and his closeness to the person of the Holy Father. Technically, but only in the most nit-picky way, he was incorrect to do this but I also think it says a lot about him personally and I think most people were happy to respect his wishes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s