Category Archives: Bishops

Bishop Guido Marini

On October 17 Pope Francis ordained his long-serving Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, Guido Marini (56) as Bishop of Tortona at a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica. Bishop Marini, a priest of Genoa who served as Papal MC since 2007, will be installed in his cathedral church on November 7.

The armorial bearings he has assumed were prepared by Marco Foppoli.

Bishop Robert Brennan to Brooklyn

Today, September 29, Pope Francis appointed the Most Rev. Robert Brennan, 59, Bishop of Columbus, OH since 2019 to become the 8th Bishop of Brooklyn in its 168 year history. He succeeds Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, 77, who served there since 2003.

Bishop Brennan is a NY native and was a priest, official and Auxiliary Bishop in the neighboring diocese to Brooklyn, Rockville Centre until he went to Ohio three years ago. He also studied in the Brooklyn Diocese when he attended St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens.

The arms he assumed in 2012 when he became a bishop impale nicely with those of the See of Brooklyn:

Ad Multos Annos!

Bishop Iffert of Covington

On September 30th the Rev. John C. Iffert (53) a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 11th Bishop of Covington, Kentucky.

The armorial bearings that he will be assuming upon entering his episcopal ministry are:

It is customary in North America for a bishop to marshal his personal coat of arms to those of his jurisdiction, in this case the See of Covington. The method most often used is impalement whereby the two separate coats of arms are depicted side by side on the same shield. This method is most often used heraldically to depict the arms of two married people who are armigerous. In employing this method in the coat of arms of a diocesan bishop it illustrated that the bishop is “married” to his diocese. The arms of the See of Covington were commissioned by William T. Mulloy, 6th bishop of Covington, following the 1953 elevation of the cathedral to a minor basilica. The gold (yellow) sword over the red cross on a silver (white) field is the symbol of Saint Paul, the Patron of the Diocese of Covington. On a chief (upper third of the shield) the gold fleur-de-lis and silver crescent are symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the titular patroness of the Cathedral of the Assumption.

The right-hand side of the shield depicts the personal coat of arms now assumed by bishop Iffert. The field (background) is green a color used to symbolize hope in the liturgy and which also hearkens to the bishop’s farming ancestors, the color green being associated with the fertile land. Across the center of this field a wavy barrulet ( a line thinner than a bar or fess) represents the the rivers that flow near Belleville, IL (the Mississippi) and Covington, KY (the Ohio). These river cities are the places where Bishop Iffert has exercised his priestly and now episcopal ministry. In the upper portion there is a gold carpenter’s square and an eight-pointed star. These are symbols of St. Joseph and Our Lady. The star also appears in the coat of arms of Pope Francis so combined here they allude to the idea that Bishop Iffert was appointed by Pope Francis during the Year of St. Joseph. 

The gold garb of wheat in the lower part of the shield has multiple meaning. At harvest time wheat is brought in and gathered in sheaves or garbs. Harvest time is the time of year when we celebrate Thanksgiving and in the year Bishop Iffert was born his birthday happened to be Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the wheat alludes to what is used to confect the Eucharist, a word that means “thanksgiving”. The area of Illinois from which the bishop comes is often called “Little Egypt”. In addition, the garb of wheat is often used in heraldry to represent agriculture in general so it alludes to the bishop’s already mentioned farming ancestors. So, in the single charge of a sheaf of wheat we can allude to the Thanksgiving holiday, the act of giving thanks which is the central action of the Eucharist as the center of our Catholic lives and the matter of the Eucharist itself, the “gift of finest wheat”.

The motto below the shield is, “In All Things Give Thanks”, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is a bishop. The gold (yellow) cross is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often erroneously thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. However, in former times archbishops had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them while in procession or on solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as archbishop. Later, archbishops – and eventually all bishops – began to incorporate this symbol of rank into their coats of arms. A processional cross in Catholic usage is a crucifix and has a corpus on it while the episcopal cross very specifically does not. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. “The hat with six pendant tassels (green, purple or black) on each side is universally considered in heraldry as the sign of prelacy. It, therefore, pertains to all who are actually prelates.” (Heim, Bruno B., Heraldry in the Catholic Church 1978, page 114) The galero is green with green cords pendant from it and twelve green tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.

It was both my privilege and my pleasure to assist in the design and execution of the bishop’s coat of arms.

Grosseto

On August 9 the Most Rev. Giovanni Roncari, OFM. Cap. (71) Bishop of Pitigliano-Sovano-Obrbetello Italy was additionally installed as the Bishop of Grosetto, Italy. Henceforth, Grosseto is united to Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello in persona episcopi. His coat of arms, designed by Giuseppe Quattrociocchi is below:

The chief (upper third of the shield) contains the traditional symbol of all the various types of Franciscans, namely the crossed arms of Christ and Francis with a cross. The bridge recalls the place where the bishop hails from (San Piero a Ponti) and the star is for Our Lady. The inclusion of the Florentine fleur-de-lis is to recall the city of Florence where the bishop exercised a great deal of his priestly ministry.

The coat of arms is well done, despite the asymmetry of the star and fleur-de-lis. That bothers some people but can also work very well depending on the overall design and I think it does so here.

My only criticism is the inclusion of the small Tau Cross at the center of the episcopal cross standing behind the shield. As I have frequently written about on this blog I am of the opinion that the external ornaments in a heraldic achievement, which indicate rank, not identity, should not be seen as open to personalization. But, in the grand scheme of things that is a minor criticism at best. I particularly like the shape of the shield chosen as I think it works very well with what is depicted upon it.

Asidonia-Jerez

On July 31 Bishop José Rico Pavés, a bishop since 2012, was installed as the Bishop of Asidonia-Jerez (Jerez de la Frontera) Spain. His coat of arms is:

Generally speaking I think this is a nice coat of arms. The charges are clear and easy to discern and would be even if viewing the coat of arms greatly reduced, as on printed matter. The green portions of the lilies and the pomegranate don’t really break the tincture rule of no color on a color despite their being on a blue field because they are secondary additions to the primary charges (the blossoms of the lily and the fruit of the pomegranate themselves). Such little things can easily be tolerated.

The only real criticism I have is the notion of the anchor extending up onto the chief from the field. Charges, especially the principal charges like this one, aren’t supposed to overlap portions of the shield, especially in this instance where the shield is divided by having a chief. The chief itself is an ordinary and, as such, is considered to be placed over the upper portion of the blue field. Even if the anchor is blazoned as “overall” that doesn’t justify having it extend up to overlap the chief. In addition, it does actually violate the tincture rule of no metal on a metal since the whole body of the anchor is silver and it extends to a gold chief. Again, another good reason to have the anchor remain below the chief. Without counterchanging, it doesn’t really work so it comes off as a poor design decision.

I wonder why there is even a chief at all? Having the Sacred Heart on the anchor could have been enough justification to leave it red (on a silver anchor), or it could have been depicted all in gold and then the entire arms could have simply had a blue field.

Nevertheless, despite this one item, the rest of the coat of arms is, in my opinion, very nice.

Las Vegas’ First Auxiliary

On Friday, July 16 the Most Rev. Gregory Gordon (60), a priest of the Diocese of Las Vagas, Nevada will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Nova Petra and the first Auxiliary Bishop of Las Vegas. The armorial bearings he is assuming are:

The shield is divided with a chevron as an allusion to the paternal family name and also as one for the state of Nevada (which partly includes the Sierra Nevada range). It is snow-covered as a nod to the name “nevada”. The mountain also represents Mt. Carmel because the bishop is being ordained on the feats of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The upper portion contains charges borrowed from the arms of his patron saint, Gregory the Great with a further allusion to Gregory’s seminal work on the office of bishop, the Liber Regulae Pastoralis. The star in the crook of the crozier is a symbol for Our Lady and the Tau cross a reference to St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan missionaries who pioneered the work of the Church in Nevada.

The lower portion displays a charge referring to a Eucharistic miracle in which the Host in a monstrance was turned to flesh in Lanciano, near the part of Italy from which the bishop’s maternal family come. It also refers to the Eucharist at the heart of priestly and episcopal ministry. Furthermore, it alludes to the Sacred heart of Jesus. It rests on a base suggesting a rock (the rock of St. Peter) as well as an allusion to the name of the titular see, Nova Petra.

The motto is taken from the Communion Rite of the liturgy and is also a reference to the Centurion’s acclamation in Matthew 8:8. Suspended below the shield is the insignia of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, of which the bishop is a Knight Commander. In addition, all bishops in the Order are accorded the rank of Knight Commander with star.

I was privileged to assist the bishop with creating the design of his coat of arms and also emblazoned them.

Bishop Koenig of Wilmington

On July 13 the Most Rev. William Koenig (64) a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 10th Bishop of Wilmington, Delaware. The coat of arms he has chosen to assume is illustrated below impaled with those of the See of Wilmington.

The arms of the See are based on those of the Lords De La Warr one of whom, Thomas West, was Governor of Virginia and for whom the state and river are named. The crosses allude to the arms of the Lords Baltimore, proprietors of Maryland because the diocese covers all of Delaware and the eastern Shore portions of Maryland. The gold lion borrows from the arms of Bl. Pius IX who erected the See.

While the new bishop’s name would lend itself easily to symbols of St. William the Abbot and a royal crown (the name Koenig means “king”) he has, somewhat disappointingly, decided to use arms that allude to various aspects of his priestly career. These are the typical “CV arms” against which I am always warning. American bishops are fixated on their coats of arms “telling the story” of their lives rather than simply doing what coats of arms are supposed to do: identify.

These arms aren’t horrible. They are merely disappointing. They could have been SO much better.

Bishop Dell’Oro

On July 2 the Most Rev. Italo Dell’Oro, CRS (68) will be ordained titular bishop of Sucarda and Auxiliary Bishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas. The armorial bearings he is assuming are:

This is not my favorite design but it is not terrible either. The division line embattled and everything in chief look fine. I’m not fond of the kind of “landscape heraldry” depicted in base. Nevertheless, that type of heraldic design appeals to many and there are no errors in this design. What I dislike about it is simply a matter of taste which is purely subjective.

Bishop Golka of Colorado Springs

On June 29 the Most Rev. James Golka (54) a priest of the Diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska, will be ordained a bishop and installed as the third Bishop of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The coat of arms he is assuming is:

The green field with the gold and silver wavy barrulets represent the bishop’s home state of Nebraska and the Wood and Platte rivers. The pelican in its piety in chief is a symbol of the Eucharist and the sword, in base, a symbol of St. Michael, stands for the ministry of deliverance and healing. The star in base is a symbol of Our Lady. The cathedral in Grand Island is dedicated to the Nativity of mary. It is where the bishop received his Sacraments of Initation, was ordained a priest and served as Rector since 2016. The motto is taken from 1 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 1.

I have no desire to comment on the arms of the See of Colorado Springs. They are well established. The bishop’s personal arms have a good rationale for why the particular charges were chosen. It is a relatively simple design and clear and doesn’t violate any of the usual heraldic conventions. It’s not terribly exciting or impressive in my opinion but that is a very subjective assessment. Overall, I’d say, a nice coat of arms.

Bishop of the Virgin Islands

On April 17, 2021 the Most Rev. Jerome Feudjio (65) a priest of the Diocese of St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands was ordained a bishop and installed as the sixth Bishop of St. Thomas. The bishop is a native of Cameroon. The armorial bearings he has assumed are:

These are placed here for your information with no further comment. (I’m feeling charitable today)

Bishop Scantlebury

On June 11 the Most Rev. Neil Sebastian Scantlebury (55) a priest of the Diocese of St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands and since March 1 the Administrator of the Diocese of Bridgetown, Barbados, Antilles will be ordained as the 4th Bishop of Bridgetown.

The armorial bearings assumed by Bishop Scantlebury combine symbols that are meaningful to him reflecting his life and identity.

The coat of arms of the Diocese of Bridgetown depicts a green field with a stylized form of dolphin that actually appears slightly more fierce than what we are used to seeing in nature. This charge, silver (white) with a mouth, fins, flippers and tail that is gold (yellow) is borrowed from the armorial bearings of Barbados where it appears as one of the figures supporting the shield. The trident head is an image borrowed from the flag of Barbados. A similar “broken” trident appears on the flag missing it’s lower part to symbolize a break with its colonial past.

Bishop Scantlbury’s arms depict A gold (yellow) field on which are two arrows crossed in the form of an “X”. The arrows are a symbol of his patron saint, St. Sebastian who, prior to being martyred by being bludgeoned to death, was tied up and shot with arrows as a form of torture. The arrows are flanked by two red hearts which evoke the mercy and the love of God. In addition, they are reminders of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At the center point is a stylized heraldic rose to allude to the bishop’s devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower”. 

On the upper third of the shield, called a chief, there is a blue background on which there are four five-pointed sliver (white) stars in the corners with an open book in the middle the pages being white and the binding of the book gold (yellow). The blue field with the four stars is borrowed from the armorial bearings of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands where Bp. Scantlebury was ordained and served in priestly ministry before becoming a bishop. The open book alludes to the Scriptures and the bishop’s degree in the Sacred Scripture.

The motto below the shield is, “Thy Will Be Done”. 

I was pleased to assist the Bishop-Elect with the design of his coat of arms.

Bishop Kulick of Greensburg, PA

On February 11, 2021 the Most Rev. Larry James Kulick (55) a priest of the Greensburg, Pennsylvania diocese will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 6th Bishop of Greensburg.

The arms he is assuming are:

The Bishop’s family is of Slovak origin hence the clear resemblance of his personal arms to those of Slovakia with the addition of two garbs of wheat, traditionally used in Catholic heraldry as an allusion to the Eucharist. Really, he has simply taken the arms of Slovakia in their entirety to use as his own coat of arms. It can be argued that the inclusion of the two garbs differences his personal arms from those of Slovakia. That would not be entirely untrue. However, it isn’t, in my opinion, a sufficient enough difference. Some thought could have been given to a change of tincture as well.

It is noteworthy that the double-barred cross which is the principal charge in the Slovak arms is also repeated in the arms of the See. In the arms of the Diocese of Greensburg the double-barred, or patriarchal, cross is taken from the arms traditionally associated with the Order of St. Benedict and are included as an allusion to the Benedictine monks of St. Vincent Archabbey who have been present in that part of Pennsylvania since 1846 and have ministered to Catholics there since before the foundation of the diocese in 1951. In fact, the Benedictines founded the cathedral parish before it even was a cathedral and graciously gave it back once it had been designated as the cathedral church. In addition, the monks run a major seminary which is the seminary the new bishop attended. So that particular charge can have multiple significance for the armiger.

The explanation included in the worship program for the event says among other things that the colors have significance for the armiger. One sentence says, “The darker red at the top of the shield represents the blood of martyrs, and the lighter red below it represents fire; together they symbolize the martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Bishop Kulick’s patron saint.” To that I can only add that there are no shades of difference in heraldic colors and no set meanings to the what a particular color means. Another section of the explanation says this (somewhat unbelievably), “The blue shadow on top of the hills symbolizes how Christ illuminates the world, and blue is the color of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the diocesan patroness as Our Lady of the Assumption. The shadows and highlights at the top of the mountains where the red and blue come together also represent St. Joseph.”

Really? Shadows and highlights represent St. Joseph? How? And how, specifically, is a highlight blazoned? So, while I don’t doubt that all these meanings are significant to the armiger, or that at least he thinks they are, but this isn’t heraldry. Such subtleties may be present in the mind of a graphic artist but not in the science of heraldry. This is all a bit too “over the top” and focuses on the wrong things.

The coat of arms was done by Sig. Poletti of Italy who also did the coat of arms of Bishop Kulick’s predecessor, Bishop Malesic, now of Cleveland.

Bishop Bonnar of Youngstown

On January 12th, the Most Rev. David Bonnar (58) a priest of Pittsburgh will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 6th Bishop of Youngstown, Ohio. The coat of arms he is assuming is:

As per the diocesan website the explanation of his personal arms, impaled with those of the See are: “The chequy blue and silver fess appears in the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s coat of arms representing his diocese of origin.  The seven point blue star recalls the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Bishop Bonnar entrusts his new pastoral ministry.  The pomegranate represents the motto of the Bishop that all the grains of this fruit are united in an only body, the mystical body of the Church.  The field of gold, the first among the noble metals, symbolizes the first of the virtues – the faith – which makes all believe in the salvation given by the Lord.”

The combinations of tinctures are pleasing. The overall design is simple: a complex ordinary with something above and something below, rather like the arms of the See as well. The charges are relatively clear even when reduced.

Bishop Byrne of Springfield, MA

On December 14 the Most Rev. William Draper Byrne (56) a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC will be ordained a bishop and installed as the Tenth Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts. His personal coat of arms impaled with those of the See of Springfield (below) depicts a paschal candle, a symbol of the Light of Christ to the world and also of sacrifice (the candle is consumed as it burns, which also makes a slight pun on the Bishop’s name). The crescent is taken from the arms of the See of Washington, DC and also from those of his seminary, the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

The bishop designed his own arms in consultation with another priest of Washington, DC and had them depicted by an artist who copied the style of the late Anthony W.C. Phelps of Cleveland, Ohio. That style became popular in Washington when it was used by Cardinal Hickey (who had previously been Bishop of Cleveland) and has been copied since by a number of bishops who have come from the Archdiocese of Washington. Mr. Phelps died in 2005.