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Monsignor (//; Italian: monsignore [monsiɲˈɲoːre]) is a form of address or title for certain members of the clergy, usually of the Roman Catholic Church. Monsignor is the apocopic form of the Italian monsignore, meaning "my lord". "Monsignor" can be abbreviated as Mons. or Msgr.[a][b] 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.
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.
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". The three papal honor classes are:
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.
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. Pope Francis decided to continue papal honors from all three classes for two groups of clergy:
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:
In 1979, the Vatican simplified the dress of monsignors:
Purple-trimmed black cassocks with purple sashes, good for all occasions.
Red-trimmed black cassocks with purple sashes, good for all occasions. Purple cassocks as choir dress for liturgical events of special solemnity.
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.
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.
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. These 14 previous classes included:
The 14 honor categories were reduced to three categories in 1969.
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.
These forms were changed in 1969.
Generic coat of arms of an honorary prelate: amaranth galero with 12 violet tassels
Generic coat of arms of a chaplain of his holiness: black galero with 12 violet tassels
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". Vicars general and diocesan administrators were allowed to wear:
As a result of this they were in some countries referred to as "black protonotaries".[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.
Pariter, qui vicarii generalis aut etiam capitularis munere fungitur, hoc munere dumtaxat perdurante, erit protonotarius titularis.