views updated Jun 08 2018


Cardinals are prelates of the Roman Catholic Church, second in hierarchy only to the pope, who constitute a special college and who have the exclusive right to elect the Roman pontiff, to advise him either as a group or individually and to represent him on solemn occasions as legates or special representatives.

The term "cardinal" or cardinalis was initially an adjective used to referred to every priest permanently attached to a church or every clergyman who belonged to a titular church (intitulatus or incardinatus ). It also became the common designation of every priest who belonged to a central or episcopal church, an ecclesiastical cardo (hinge). It was synonymous of principal, excellent, superior. The term cardinalis means, according to a usage in existence since Pope St. Gregory the Great (590604), a cleric who had been assigned to serve in a church other than the one he was ordained for. These clerics were referred to as "priest cardinals." By the 11th century, the adjective "cardinal" had become a noun and they were referred to as cardinal priests.


Cardinal Priests. The historical origin of the office of cardinal goes back to the presbyterate of the bishop of Rome. As early as the 1st century, the Liber Pontificalis says that Pope St. Cletus or Anacletus (7688), following St. Peter's instructions ordained 25 presbyters for the City of Rome. Pope St. Evaristus (97105), the fifth successor to St. Peter, divided the Roman churches (titles) among the priests. In the 3d century, Pope St. Dionysius (260268), was faced with the disarray of the Roman Church caused by Valerian's persecution, and then by the problems created by Emperor Gallienus's (260268) reversal of his father's policies and restoration of the church's confiscated property and cemeteries. Dionysius carried out a thorough reorganization of the church, as may be seen in the report of the Liber Pontificalis, allocating the parishes and cemeteries to the several priests, and delimiting new episcopal units in his metropolitan area.

In the 4th century, Pope Marcellus, (308309), ordained 25 priests for the City of Rome and authorized the administration of baptisms, penance, and funerals in the titles. A century and a half later, Pope St. Simplicius (468483) arranged for priests from some of the Roman titular churches to assist with the services at the major basilicas of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Lawrence. Thus was initiated the praxis of incardination.

Following a very old custom of the Eucharistic celebration by the bishop together with his presbyterate, the heads of the Roman titular churches celebrated the main

liturgies in the patriarchal basilicas of the city in weekly turns, hebdomadaries. The most ancient document in existence containing the names of the Roman titles is the constitution Ut si quis papa superstite, issued by Pope St. Symmachus (498514) during the Roman synod of March 1, 499. At the end of the document appear the names of the 72 bishops who participated as well as those of the titular priests of Rome with the names of their titles. The titles (of property) were those of early Christian families who had given their homes to the Church for worshiping and instruction. A century later, in the Roman synod of 595, convoked by Pope St. Gregory I, 24 titular priests signed the documents issued. This list is the second catalog of the titular churches of Rome, all of them appearing by then under the denomination of a saint.

The number of titles rose from 18 in pre-Constantinian times to 25 in the 6th century and then to 28 in the mid-9th century. Until the 8th century there were most probably five titular churches assigned in each area to each one of the patriarchal basilicas. They were rearranged in the 8th century and the seven heads of the neighboring titular churches were called to the liturgy in the Lateran basilica, the cathedral of the pope as bishop of Rome, and the heads of the titular churches celebrated the liturgy in the four other patriarchal basilicas: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Lawrence, and St. Mary the Major (or Liberian).

The first time that the term "cardinal" appears in the Liber Pontificalis is in the biography of Pope Stephen III(IV) when in the Roman Synod of 769, it was decided that the Roman pontiff should be elected from among the deacons and cardinal priests and later, during the same pontificate, the weekly liturgical celebrations in the major basilica Saint John Lateran of Rome were assigned to the cardinal bishops. With the passing of time and their involvement in ecclesiastical affairs of the Universal Church because of their proximity to the Bishop of Rome, the main functions of the cardinals evolved from purely liturgical and pastoral to more administrative and judicial.

Cardinal Bishops. Since the early centuries there were several dioceses in the vicinity of Rome known as "suburbicarian" sees. The role of these bishops originated from the need for assistance that the popes had. As the amount of ecclesiastical and temporal matters that the popes had to attend to increased, they called on the bishops of the dioceses that had existed in the vicinity of Rome since the early centuries of the Church to represent them at liturgical functions in the Lateran basilica and to assist them with their counsel. These suburbicarian bishops eventually became the cardinal bishops. The Liber Pontificalis, in the pontificate of Pope Stephen III (768772), calls them "episcopis cardinalibus" and says that they, according to an ancient custom, celebrated solemn mass every Sunday at St. Peter's altar at the Lateran basilica. Their number was always seven although their sees varied through the centuries. One of them, the bishop of Ostia, has been the consecrator of the new bishop of Rome, if necessary, since the pontificate of Pope St. Mark (336). In 1150, Pope Bl. Eugenius III granted the deanship of the College of Cardinals to the bishop of Ostia, a decision that is still in effect.

Cardinal Deacons. There were two kinds of deacons: Palatine and regional. The former are the seven original deacons of the City of Rome (established in the 3d century by Pope St. Fabian [236250], who divided Rome into seven regions and provided for each a deacon and a subdeacon), and who took part in the liturgy of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The latter were the 12 regional deacons who took part in the liturgy of the other basilicas. By the 12th century, the distinctions between these two classes of deacons had disappeared. The first time that a deaconal monastery is mentioned in the Liber Pontificalis, is in the biography of Pope Benedict II (684685). From the times of Pope Hadrian I (772795) there had been 18 deaconries or agencies charged with the material assistance to the needy of Rome and that had a church as the center point of its activities. Since the 12th century, a cardinal was in charge of each of the deaconries.

FROM 1059 TO 1946

In 1059, Pope Nicholas II, continuing the effort of the Church to free the election of its head from all secular influence, published the decree In Nomine Domine in which he gave the cardinal bishops the right to be the sole electors of the Roman pontiff. The other cardinals and the Roman clergy were to assent to the election. The emperor was to be informed as a courtesy.

The College of Cardinals was organized in its present form and categories of membership in 1150 when Pope Bl. Eugene III (114553) appointed a dean (the bishop of Ostia) and a camerlengo or administrator of the college's wealth. Traditionally, the clerics created cardinals were required to reside in Rome. This custom was changed in 1163 when Pope Alexander III (115981) allowed the archbishop of Mainz, Conrad of Wittelsbach, to return to his see after having being created a cardinal. In order to make him a member of the Roman clergy, Alexander named him to a church in the city, making him a titular pastor. In 1179 Alexander reserved the election of the pope exclusively to the cardinals of the three ranks by the decree Licet de vitanda. The decree required twothirds of the votes for a valid election.

Since the 12th century, the cardinals have had precedence over archbishops and bishops, and since the 15th century, even over patriarchs (bull Non Mediocri of Pope Eugene IV, 143147). They could vote in ecumenical councils even if they were only deacons. Their number, which usually did not exceed 30 from the 13th to the 15th centuries (the Councils of Constance and Basle decreed that the cardinals must be 24), was fixed by Pope Sixtus V with the constitution Postquam verus Dec. 3, 1586) at 70 on the model of the 70 elders of Israel: six cardinal bishops, 50 cardinal priests, and 14 cardinal deacons. The Council of Trent urged the internationalization of the college, but the cardinals from the Italian peninsula constituted the absolute majority of the membership for centuries.

Pope Innocent IV (124354) granted the use of the red hat to the cardinals during the Council of Lyon in 1245 and the red cassock was granted to the cardinals in 1294 by Pope Boniface VIII (12941303). In 1965 Pope Paul VI abolished the red hat. The red biretta, red skullcap (calotte or zucchetto), red cloak or mantle, were bestowed upon the cardinals in 1464 by Pope Paul II (146471). Pope Urban VIII (162344) granted the title of eminence to the cardinals in a secret consistory celebrated on June 10, 1630.

During the pontificate of Pope Clement V (130514), the creation of the favorites of secular princes as cardinals increased. From the 15th century on, the emperor and the kings of France, Spain, and Portugal abrogated themselves the "right" to name crown cardinals. Oftentimes, these became the diplomatic representatives of their princes before the papal court and were also known as cardinals protector. Since the 16th century, those secular princes also started practicing the "right of exclusion," by which through the crown cardinals, they could veto the election of any pope. The right, exercised in several conclaves, was abolished by Pope St. Pius X in 1904. Cardinal protectors of religious orders had been in existence since the pontificate of Honorius III (121627) when one was appointed as protector of the Franciscans. The system of cardinal protectors for orders and congregations was abolished in 1964.


The second half of the 20th century saw substantial changes take place in the office of the cardinalate. A marked trend toward the internationalization of the College of Cardinals was initiated in 1946 by Pope Pius XII. Not only did he appointed the first cardinals of several nations such as Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mozambique, and Peru, but also for the first time in centuries the Italian cardinals did not constitute the absolute majority of the college. This trend continued in successive pontificates until, following the consistory of 2001, there were 185 cardinals from 69 different countries.

The maximum number of members of the College of Cardinals remained at 70 from 1586 until John XXIII set aside this rule and raised the membership to 75 in 1958 (even more in subsequent consistories). The number continued to grow during the pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul II. In his consistorial allocution of March 5, 1973, Pope Paul VI announced that the number of cardinals entitled to participate in papal elections was limited to 120. The total number of cardinals (electors and nonelectors) has never been fixed since 1958. The highest has been 185, after the consistory of 2001 celebrated by Pope John Paul II.

For centuries, the cardinals have exercised power of governance, administration, and discipline over the suburbicarian dioceses, titles, and deaconries that they headed. These powers were abolished by John XXIII and Paul VI by their motu proprios Suburbicariis sedibus (April 11, 1962) and Ad hoc usque tempus (April 15, 1969). Now the cardinal is only to further the good of the diocese or church by counsel and patronage.

Another innovation introduced by Pope John XXIII in his motu proprio Cum gravissima of April 15, 1962, was that those cardinals who are not already bishops must receive episcopal consecration. Until then they were required to have been ordained priests.

Pope Paul VI effected essential changes in the office of cardinals. By his motu proprio Ad purpuratorum patrum, issued on Feb. 11, 1965, he decided that Eastern patriarchs named to the College of Cardinals would keep their patriarchal see as a title. Accordingly, there will be members of the college who are not even symbolically incardinated to a church in Rome. Moreover, on Nov. 21, 1970, Paul VI decreed (motu proprio Ingravescentem aetatem ) that the cardinals lose the right to participate in papal elections upon reaching 80 years of age. Also, that cardinals heading organs in the Roman Curia were asked to submit their resignation to the pope upon reaching 75 years of age and ceased as members of the same at 80. For the first time since they became the exclusive electors of the pope, cardinals in good standing were deprived from exercising their electoral function because of age. The document that Paul VI issued on Oct. 1, 1975, regulating the papal election, Romano Pontifice eligendo, kept the language of the constitution Ne Romani electione, issued by Clement V in 1311. The Pauline document stated that no cardinal elector could be "excluded from active and passive participation in the election of the Supreme Pontiff because of, or on pretext of, any excommunication, suspension, interdict or other ecclesiastical impediment. Any such censures are to be regarded as suspended as far as the effect of the election is concerned"(n. 35).

The new Code of Canon Law (1983) addresses the topic of the cardinals in Chapter III: "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church" (canons 349359). Its main innovations are the definition of the College of Cardinals as a special college, no longer referring to it as the "Senate of the Roman Pontiff," as in the 1917 code, whose prerogative it is to elect the Roman pontiff in accordance with the norms of a special law. This law is the apostolic constitution Universi dominici gregis, promulgated by Pope John Paul II on Feb. 22, 1996.

Besides codifying the changes decreed since 1917, the new code, (1) established the naming of special papal envoys (while keeping the practice of "Legatus a latere") entrusted with a particular pastoral task. In 1998 Pope John Paul II started the practice of naming as special envoy prelates who are not cardinals; (2) eliminated the list of 24 cardinalitial privileges; and (3) established the celebration of ordinary and extraordinary consistories, replacing the praxis of secret, semipublic, and public consistories. Both kinds of consistory are secret except when an ordinary consistory deals with certain solemn acts such as canonizations or creation of new cardinals.

Consistories. The cardinals assist the pope in collegial fashion in meetings called consistories. They are gathered by order of the pope and under his presidency and address important ecclesiastical matters. The consistory was instituted by Pope Leo IV (847855) with a decree issued in the Roman synod of Dec. 8, 853. It mandated the cardinals to meet weekly in the pontifical palace to deliberate with the pope. As the Roman synod dwindled in importance, the consistory became the most important collegial organ of the pope, with an advisory function. With the establishment of the Roman Congregations by Pope Sixtus V in 1588, by which the activities of the commissions of cardinals were institutionalized, the consistory became less important and those cardinals who headed these new organs of the Roman Curia became very influential figures in the government of the universal Church. Pope John Paul II called five extraordinary consistories between 1979 and 2001. All cardinals, electors, and nonelectors were invited to participate in these gatherings.

Orders. The College of Cardinals is still divided into three orders: the episcopal order, to which belong those cardinals to whom the Roman pontiff assigns the title of a suburbicarian Church, and the Eastern-rite Patriarchs who are made members of the College of Cardinals; the presbyteral order; and the diaconal order. The suburbicarian churches are Ostia (reserved for the dean of the college who unites it to his own suburbicarian see), Albano, Frascati, Palestrina, Porto-Santa Rufina, Sabina-Poggio Mirteto, and Velletri-Segni. In 1965, Pope Paul VI, by his motu proprio Sacro Cardinalium Consilio, established that the dean and sub-dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals should be elected to their posts by and from among the cardinal bishops instead of succeeding by order of seniority as had been the practice for centuries and as was legally stipulated by the 1917 Code of Canon Law (c. 237, §1). This election by the cardinal bishops requires papal confirmation to be valid. At the beginning of 2001, there were 136 titular churches and 57 deaconries. Cardinals also have the right of "option" to another title or deaconry. The practice as started by the antipope Alexander V (140910). Until then, the cardinals kept until death the sees, titles, or deaconries that they had originally received. Pope Eugenius IV (143147) authorized the practice and Sixtus V (158590) codified it with precise regulations in his constitution Religiosa sanctorum. The cardinal deacons may opt to the rank of priests after 10 years of their elevation to the college. The senior cardinal deacon, or protodeacon, announces the name of the newly elected pontiff to the people and imposes the pallium on him on the day of the inauguration of the new pontificate. Acting in place of the pope, he also confers the pallium on metropolitan bishops or gives the pallium to their proxies, usually the day of the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul.

Requirements for the Cardinalate. Those to be promoted to the cardinalate are men freely selected by the pope, who have at least received the priestly ordination (until the 1917 code, the cardinals needed only to be deacons; the last one was Cardinal Teodulfo Mertel who died in 1899) and are outstanding in doctrine, virtue, piety, and prudence in practical matters; those who are not already bishops must receive episcopal consecration. From the moment of publication, they are bound by the obligations and they enjoy the rights defined in the law. In the 14th and 15th centuries some canonists and theologians unsuccessfully advanced the idea of the divine institution of the cardinalate. Instead, the nomination of cardinals is referred to as "creation," signifying that the office of cardinal is of ecclesiastical institution and could be abolished by the pope.

Cardinals "in pectore." A person promoted to the dignity of cardinal, whose creation the pope announces, but whose name he reserves in pectore (in his bosom), is not at that time bound by the obligations nor does he enjoy the rights of a cardinal. When the Roman pontiff publishes his name, however, he is bound by these obligations and enjoys these rights, but his right of precedence dates from the day of the reservation in pectore. This practice of reserving the name of a cardinal was started during the pontificate of Martin V (141731). Pope John XXIII created three cardinals in pectore in 1960 and died without ever publishing their names. John Paul II reserved the names of one cardinal in the consistory of 1979 and two in the consistory of 1998. All three were published at later consistories.

Vacancy of the Apostolic See. When the Apostolic See is vacant because of the death or resignation of the pope, the College of Cardinals exercises the limited powers granted to it in the special legislation that provides for the election of the successor. In 1996 Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic constitution Universi dominici gregis to regulate the vacancy and the election.

Bibliography: m. andrieu, "L'origine du titre de cardinal," Miscellanea Giovanni Mercati. 6 v. (Vatican City 1946) 5:113144. The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis): The Ancient Biographies of the First 90 Roman Bishops to A.D. 715, tr. r. davis (Translated Texts for Historians, Latin Series V; Liverpool 1989). j. f. broderick, "The Sacred College of Cardinals: Size and Geographical Composition (10991986)," Archivum Historiae Pontificiae (1986) 771. f. claeys bouuaert, "Dioceses Suburbicaires," Dictionnaire de droit canonique, 4:126771. a. de la hera, "La reforma del colegio cardenalicio bajo el pontificado de Juan XXIII," Ius canonicum, 2 (1962) 677716. j. forget, "Cardinaux," Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique contenant l'exposé des doctrines de la théologie catholique, leurs prevues et leur histoire. ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350), continué sous celle de e. amann et al. (Paris 190350 [i.e., 18991950]) 2, pt. 2, cols. 171724. h. g. hynes, The Privileges of Cardinals. Commentary with Historical Notes (Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies, no. 217; Washington 1945). s. kuttner, "Cardinalis. The History of a Canonical Concept," Traditio, 3(1945) 129214. c. lefebvre, "Les origines et le rôle du cardinalat au moyen age," Apollinaris, 41 (1968) 5970. The Lives of the Ninth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis). The Ancient Biographies of Ten Popes from A.D. 817891, tr. r. davis (Translated Texts for Historians, 20; Liverpool 1995). c. mesini, "Origine della prelatura cardenalizia," Apollinaris, 45 (1972) 339351. j. p. beal, j. a. coriden, and t. j. green, eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Commissioned by the Canon Law Society of America; New York 2000). t. j. reese, "The College of Cardinals," Inside the Vatican: the Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (Cambridge, Mass. 1996). j. b. sÄgmÜller, "Cardinal," The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1913) 3:333341.

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views updated May 23 2018

car·di·nal / ˈkärdnəl; ˈkärdn-əl/ • n. 1. a leading dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church, nominated by the pope and collectively forming the Sacred College. ∎  (also cardinal red) a deep scarlet color like that of a cardinal's cassock. 2. a New World songbird of the bunting family, with a stout bill and conspicuous crest, in particular the northern (or common) cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), the male of which is scarlet with a black face.• adj. of the greatest importance; fundamental.DERIVATIVES: car·di·nal·ate / ˈkärdnələt; ˈkärdn-ələt; -ˌlāt/ n. (in sense 1 of the noun)car·di·nal·ship / ship/ n. (in sense 1 of the noun).


views updated May 29 2018

cardinal1 a leading dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinals are nominated by the Pope, and form the Sacred College which elects succeeding popes (now invariably from among their own number). The word is recorded from Old English and comes from Latin cardinalis, from cardo, cardin- ‘hinge’ (See also cardinal2); the derivation reflects the notion of the important function of such priests as ‘pivots’ of church life.

Cardinals wear a deep scarlet cassock with a wide-brimmed red hat; the cardinal's hat is often taken as a symbol of his office, and is the emblem of St Bonaventura, St Jerome, and St Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621).


views updated May 21 2018

cardinal Priest of the highest rank in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church after the Pope. Some cardinals are heads of departments of the Curia Romana, whereas others are primates of national churches or other senior bishops. They are nominated by the Pope, whom they advise. On the death of a Pope they meet in secret conclave to elect his successor.


views updated May 17 2018

cardinal2 of fundamental importance (formed as cardinal1).
cardinal humour each of the four chief humours of the body.
cardinal number a number denoting quantity (one, two, three, etc.) as opposed to an ordinal number (first, second, third, etc.).
cardinal points the four main points of the compass (north, south, east, and west).
cardinal virtues the chief moral attributes of scholastic philosophy: justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude, identified by the classical philosophers and adopted by Christian moral theologians.


views updated May 18 2018

cardinal chief, principal. XIII. — (O)F. cardinal or L. cardinālis, f. cardō, cardin- hinge; in Eng. first applied to the four virtues of justice, fortitude, temperance, prudence, on which conduct ‘hinges’; see -AL 1.
So cardinal sb. any of the seventy princes (cardinal bishops, priests, and deacons) of the Roman Church that constitute the Pope's council or the Sacred College. XII. — (O)F. — medL.


views updated May 18 2018

1. In Bivalvia, applied to the area around the hinge. The word is derived from the Latin cardinalis meaning ‘hinge’.

2. (Cardinalis cardinalis) See CARDINALIDAE.


views updated May 14 2018

Cardinal. A member of the ‘Sacred College’ of priests selected by the pope to assist him in governing the Roman Catholic Church. In 1994 there were 167 cardinals in all. On the death of a pope they meet in secret session to elect his successor; since 1971 those over the age of 80 may not vote.


views updated Jun 27 2018

cardinal Any member of a family of small to medium-sized, bunting-like birds that are confined to North and Central America. Family Fringillidae.

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