Last updated

Monsignor ( /mɒnˈsnjər/ ; Italian : monsignore [monsiɲˈɲoːre] ) is an honorific form of address or title for certain male clergy members, usually members of the Roman 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 dropped when a priest is appointed as bishop. [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 papal 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 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 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]

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 only receive "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. [13] [14] [15] 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 ] [13] [14] [15] 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. [13]

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". [17] Vicar generals and diocesan administrators were allowed to wear:

As a result of this they were in some countries referred to as "black protonotaries". [22] [ 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.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prelate</span> High-ranking member of the clergy

A prelate is a high-ranking member of the Christian clergy who is an ordinary or who ranks in precedence with ordinaries. The word derives from the Latin praelatus, the past participle of praeferre, which means 'carry before', 'be set above or over' or 'prefer'; hence, a prelate is one set over others.

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

The cassock or soutane is a Christian clerical clothing coat used by the clergy and male religious of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, in addition to some clergy in certain Protestant denominations such as Anglicans and Lutherans. "Ankle-length garment" is the literal meaning of the corresponding Latin term, vestis talaris. It is related to the habits traditionally worn by nuns, monks, and friars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prelate of Honour of His Holiness</span>

A Prelate of Honour of His Holiness is a Catholic prelate to whom the Pope has granted this title of honour.

The word prothonotary is 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hierarchy of the Catholic Church</span> Organization of the Catholic Church

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops, priests, and deacons. In the ecclesiological sense of the term, "hierarchy" strictly means the "holy ordering" of the Church, the Body of Christ, so to respect the diversity of gifts and ministries necessary for genuine unity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Choir dress</span> Formal religious clothing

Choir dress is the traditional vesture of the clerics, seminarians and religious of Christian churches worn for public prayer and the administration of the sacraments except when celebrating or concelebrating the Eucharist. It differs from the vestments worn by the celebrants of the Eucharist, being normally made of fabrics such as wool, cotton or silk, as opposed to the fine brocades used in vestments. It may also be worn by lay assistants such as acolytes and choirs. It was abandoned by most of the Protestant churches that developed from the sixteenth-century Reformation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mozzetta</span> Type of cape worn by some Roman Catholic clergy

The mozzetta is a short elbow-length sartorial vestment, a cape that covers the shoulders and is buttoned over the frontal breast area. It is worn over the rochet or cotta as part of choir dress by some of the clergy of the Catholic Church, among them the pope, cardinals, bishops, abbots, canons and religious superiors. There used to be a small hood on the back of the mozzetta of bishops and cardinals, but this was discontinued by Pope Paul VI. The hood, however, was retained in the mozzette of certain canons and abbots, and in that of the popes, often trimmed in satin, silk or ermine material.

The papal household or pontifical household, called until 1968 the Papal Court, consists of dignitaries who assist the pope in carrying out particular ceremonies of either a religious or a civil character.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Protonotary apostolic</span> Title in the Roman Curia

In the Roman Catholic Church, protonotary apostolic is the title for a member of the highest non-episcopal college of prelates in the Roman Curia or, outside Rome, an honorary prelate on whom the pope has conferred this title and its special privileges. An example is Prince Georg of Bavaria (1880–1943), who became in 1926 Protonotary by papal decree.

A mantelletta, Italian diminutive of Latin mantellum 'mantle', is a sleeveless, knee-length, vest-like garment, open in front, with slits instead of sleeves on the sides, fastened at the neck. It was for a period of time even more common than the mozzetta.

The Very Reverend is a style given to members of the clergy. The definite article "The" should always precede "Reverend" as "Reverend" is a style or fashion and not a title.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecclesiastical titles and styles</span>

Ecclesiastical titles are the formal styles of address used for members of the clergy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bishops in the Catholic Church</span> Ordained ministers of the Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, a bishop is an ordained minister who holds the fullness of the sacrament of holy orders and is responsible for teaching doctrine, governing Catholics in his jurisdiction, sanctifying the world and representing the Church. Catholics trace the origins of the office of bishop to the apostles, who it is believed were endowed with a special charism and office by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Catholics believe this special charism and office has been transmitted through an unbroken succession of bishops by the laying on of hands in the sacrament of holy orders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fascia (sash)</span>

The fascia is a sash worn by clerics and seminarians with the cassock in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Anglican Church. It is not worn as a belt but is placed above the waist between the navel and the breastbone (sternum). The ends that hang down are worn on the left side of the body and placed a little forward but not completely off the left hip.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piping (sewing)</span>

In sewing, piping is a type of trim or embellishment consisting of a strip of folded fabric so as to form a "pipe" inserted into a seam to define the edges or style lines of a garment or other textile object. Usually the fabric strip is cut on the bias. It may be made from either self-fabric or contrasting fabric, or of leather.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernard Joseph McLaughlin</span> Catholic bishop (1912–2015)

Bernard Joseph McLaughlin was an American bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the Auxiliary Bishop of Buffalo and also held the titular see of Mottola.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of precedence in the Catholic Church</span> Precedence of persons

Precedence signifies the right to enjoy a prerogative of honor before other persons; for example, to have the most distinguished place in a procession, a ceremony, or an assembly, to have the right to express an opinion, cast a vote, or append a signature before others, to perform the most honorable offices.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chaplain of His Holiness</span> Ecclesiastical title in the Roman Catholic Church

A Chaplain of His Holiness is a priest to whom the Pope has granted this title. They are addressed as Monsignor and have certain privileges with respect to ecclesiastical dress and vestments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of the Catholic Church</span>

This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church. Some terms used in everyday English have a different meaning in the context of the Catholic faith, including brother, confession, confirmation, exemption, faithful, father, ordinary, religious, sister, venerable, and vow.

<i>Pontificalis Domus</i> Motu proprio issued by Pope Paul VI

Pontificalis Domus was a motu proprio document issued by Pope Paul VI on 28 March 1968, in the fifth year of his pontificate. It reorganized the Papal Household, which had been known until then as the Papal Court.


  1. 1 2 The New York Times .
  2. 1 2 "The Rt Rev Mgr Graham Leonard", The Telegraph (obituary), UK .
  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
  13. 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.
  14. 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
  15. 1 2 "Pope Francis reforms ecclesiastical honours", Vatican Radio, 7 January 2014.
  16. Annuario Pontificio, Vaticana, 2013, pp. 1846–48, ISBN   978-88-209-9070-1 .
  17. 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.
  18. 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'”.
  19. Secretary of State 2000, 23–25.
  20. Galles 1999.
  21. "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).
  22. Noonan 1996.