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Instilling humility: Pope Francis does away with the honorific title 'monsignor'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 8th, 2014
Catholic Online (

Pope Francis, instilling a new sense of humility and simplicity in the Catholic Church, has declared that he is doing away with the designation of "monsignor." From here on in, the designation will only be applied to diocesan priests who are "chaplains of the Holy Father," and only after they turn 65 years of age.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Vatican's Secretary of State has sent a letter to its embassies asking them to inform bishops' conferences of the change. Bishops, vicars and archbishops still get to be called "monsignor" and Holy See officials will have the title if their office warrants it.

The Vatican notes that Francis' decision "should be taken in this vein, as a further simplification." Pope Paul VI reduced the number of ecclesiastic honorifics in 1968.

According to the online Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, Monsignor is the form of address for those members of the clergy of the Catholic Church who receive from the pope certain ecclesiastical honorific titles. Monsignors have rendered valuable service to the Church or who provide some special function in church governance.

"Monsignor", being a form of address, is not itself an appointment. One cannot be "made a monsignor" nor can one be "the monsignor of a parish". The title or form of address is associated with certain papal awards which Pope Paul VI reduced to three classes: appointments as Protonotary Apostolic, Honorary Prelate, and Chaplain of His Holiness.

It is usually on the proposal of the local bishop that the Pope grants to Catholic diocesan clergy this title. The grant is subject to the criteria of the Holy See, including a minimum age, which Pope Francis, who in the 15 years he was archbishop of Buenos Aires never proposed any of his priests for the title, raised to 65 years.

The Pope in December communicated his definitive decision to accept no further requests from bishops for appointments to the first two of these classes, but only to that of Chaplain of His Holiness. Grants already made remained in force, whether to individuals or to bodies such as chapters, and no change was made regarding grants to lay people of papal knighthoods or the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice and Benemerenti medals.

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