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Portrait of Monsignor James F. Loughlin. The ecclesiastical dress of priests styled monsignor is similar to that of bishops James Loughlin G365.jpg
Portrait of Monsignor James F. Loughlin. The ecclesiastical dress of priests styled monsignor is similar to that of bishops

Monsignor ( /mɒnˈsnjər/ ; Italian : monsignore [monsiɲˈɲoːre] ) is a form of address or title for certain members of the clergy in the Catholic Church. Monsignor is the apocopic form of the Italian monsignore, meaning "my lord". "Monsignor" can be abbreviated as Mons. [1] [2] [3] [4] or Msgr. [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] In some countries, the title "monsignor" is used as a form of address for bishops. However, in English-speaking countries, the title is unrelated to the episcopacy, though many priests with the title later become bishops. [1] [2] [3] [4]


The title "monsignor" is a form of address, not an appointment (such as a bishop or cardinal). A priest cannot be "made a monsignor" or become "the monsignor of a parish". The title "Monsignor" is normally used by clergy who have received one of the three classes of papal honors:

The pope bestows these honors upon clergy who:

Clerics working in the Roman Curia and the Vatican diplomatic service are eligible for all three honors. Priests working in a diocese are only eligible for the "Chaplain of His Holiness" honor. Priests must be nominated by their bishop and (for appointments after 2013) must be at least 65 years old.

Current honor rules

Current honor classes

Pope Paul VI, in his 1968 publication motu proprio Pontificalis Domus , reduced the number of papal honors allowing "Monsignor" as a style from 14 to three. The protonotary apostolic class was divided into two subsections. The classes of chamberlains and chaplains were abolished, leaving only a single class of "chaplains of his holiness". [10] The three papal honor classes are:

Current honor eligibility

In March 2013, Pope Francis suspended the granting of papal honors, with the title of monsignor, to all clergy except members of the Vatican diplomatic service. [11] [12] However, by 2022 the title had started to be awarded again. [13]

At the October 2013 meeting of the Council of Cardinal Advisers, Pope Francis stated his desire to scale back the honors as part of a broader effort to project a more modest and pastoral vision of leadership. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis never requested papal honors for his priests, associating the honors with clerical "careerism".

In December 2013, Pope Francis decreed that diocesan priests could become "Chaplain of His Holiness", the lowest of the three papal honors. He also set a minimum age required of 65. Existing honors were not affected. [14] [15] [16] Pope Francis decided to continue papal honors from all three classes for two groups of clergy:

Current forms of address

These are the current forms of address for a monsignor:

In English speaking countries, bishops and archbishops are not called "monsignor". However, in 1969 the Vatican Secretariat of State indicated that bishops may be addressed as "monsignor". In some countries, the titles "Monsignore", "Monseigneur", "Monsenyor", and "Monseñor" are used for bishops, archbishops and any other prelates below the rank of cardinal or patriarch.

The 1969 instruction also indicated that for bishops "Reverendissimus" (translated as "most reverend") could be added to the word "monsignor". For example, the "Most Reverend Monsignor John Doe". This instruction also applied to:

Current ecclesiastical dress

In 1979, the Vatican simplified the dress of monsignors:

Chaplains of His Holiness

Purple-trimmed black cassocks with purple sashes, good for all occasions.

Honorary prelates

Red-trimmed black cassocks with purple sashes, good for all occasions. Purple cassocks as choir dress for liturgical events of special solemnity.

Supernumerary protonotaries apostolics

Red-trimmed black cassocks with purple sashes. Purple cassocks as choir dress. Can also wear the purple ferraiuolo , a silk cape. The ferraiuolo is for non-liturgical events, such as graduation and commencement ceremonies.

Protonotaries apostolics de numero

Red-trimmed black cassocks with purple sashes and the purple ferraiuolo . Purple cassocks as choir dress. They can wear the mantelletta in choir dress with a black biretta with a red tuft.

Previous honor rules

Previous honor classes

The Catholic church originally maintained 14 classes of papal honors. A priest with the title of "privy chamberlain" would lose the title when the pope who granted it died. When the pope abolished the privy chamberlain class in 1968, the rule was abolished also. [10] [ citation needed ] [14] [15] [16] These 14 previous classes included:

The 14 honor categories were reduced to three categories in 1969.

Previous age requirements

Under Pope Paul VI, the Secretariat of State set minimum qualifications of age and priesthood for the three papal honor classes:

The Secretariat waived the minimum age limit for vicars general proposed for appointment as honorary prelates. The reasoning was that as long as a priest holds the office of vicar general, he is also protonotary apostolic supernumerary. A vicar general could not be named chaplain of his holiness. All these criteria were superseded in 2013. [14]

Previous forms of address

These forms were changed in 1969.

Other monsignors

Under the legislation of Pope Pius X, vicars general and vicars capitular (now called diocesan administrators) are titular (not actual) Protonotaries durante munere. As long as these priests hold the office, they can have the title "monsignor". [18] Vicars general and diocesan administrators were allowed to wear:

As a result of this they were in some countries referred to as "black protonotaries". [23] [ page needed ] However, Pontificalis domus of Paul VI removed this position (titular protonotaries) from the Papal Household, even though the title of "monsignor", which is to be distinguished from a prelatial rank, has not been withdrawn from vicars general, as can be seen, for instance, from the placing of the abbreviated title "Mons." before the name of every member of the secular (diocesan) clergy listed as a vicar general in the Annuario Pontificio .[ citation needed ]

See also


  1. Especially in the United States e.g. Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, [5] Diocese of Miami, [6] Diocese of Tyler. [7]
  2. E.g. Diocese of Derry, [8] Parish of Zejtun, Malta. [9] This is the regular abbreviation in Italian.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cassock</span> Christian clerical coat

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The word prothonotary has been recorded in English since 1447, as "principal clerk of a court," from L.L. prothonotarius, from Greek protonotarios "first scribe," originally the chief of the college of recorders of the court of the Byzantine Empire, from Greek πρῶτοςprotos "first" + Latin notarius ("notary"); the -h- appeared in Medieval Latin. The title was awarded to certain high-ranking notaries.

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  1. 1 2 The New York Times , 15 February 1918.
  2. 1 2 "The Rt Rev Mgr Graham Leonard", The Telegraph (obituary), UK, 6 January 2010.
  3. 1 2 Deceased clergy, Australian Catholic Directory.
  4. 1 2 Clergy within Diocese, UK: Romanist catholic Diocese of Paisley, archived from the original on September 5, 2009
  5. Catholic Dallas, archived from the original on December 17, 2014
  6. Bulletin (PDF), Miami Archdiocese, 2009-03-09, archived from the original (PDF) on October 11, 2010
  7. Office directory, Diocese of Tyler, archived from the original on September 1, 2009
  8. Contacts, Derry diocese, archived from the original on November 24, 2009
  9. Zejtun parish, Malta, archived from the original on 2009-12-12.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Annuario Pontificio 2012, p. 1853
  11. Il Messaggero (PDF), Fine settimana, 12 September 2013, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 January 2014.
  12. "Pope scales back honorifics", The Tablet, Rorate Cæli, Sep 2013, archived from the original on January 8, 2014
  14. 1 2 3 O'Connell, Gerard (4 January 2014). "Pope abolishes honorary title of monsignor for diocesan priests under the age of 65". Vatican Insider. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  15. 1 2 Rocca, Francis X. (January 6, 2014), "Pope limits 'monsignor' honor for diocesan priests", Catholic News Service, archived from the original on 2014-01-07
  16. 1 2 "Pope Francis reforms ecclesiastical honours", Vatican Radio, 7 January 2014.
  17. Annuario Pontificio, Vaticana, 2013, pp. 1846–48, ISBN   978-88-209-9070-1 .
  18. 1 2 Pope Pius X (21 February 1905), Inter multiplices curas, 62, Pariter, qui vicarii generalis aut etiam capitularis munere fungitur, hoc munere dumtaxat perdurante, erit protonotarius titularis.
  19. Secretary of State 2000: "26. For Supernumerary Apostolic Protonotaries, Prelates of Honour and Chaplains of His Holiness there may be used the title 'Monsignor', preceded, where appropriate, by 'Reverend'".
  20. Secretary of State 2000, 23–25.
  21. Galles 1999.
  22. "Super habitu quotidiano, occasione solemnis conventus, audientiae et similium... zonam tantum sericam nigram, cum laciniis item nigris, gestare poterunt, cum pileo chordula ac floccis nigris ornato" (Inter multiplices curas, 67).
  23. Noonan 1996.