The recent announcement that 10 priests from the diocese were given the papal honor and designation as “monsignor” may prompt a few questions of ritual protocol.
Each bishop can choose how this honor is to be expressed in the diocese. Given the fact that the title has not been given in the Toledo Diocese for a number of years and — more importantly — that the purpose in naming monsignors now is a means to commemorate the year-long centenary observance of the diocese, a public ritual is to be celebrated at Toledo Rosary Cathedral on at 6 p.m. Jan. 30.
The conferral of papal honors may be celebrated during Mass or within the context of praying one of the hours of the Divine Office. The ceremonial rite Jan. 30 is to be celebrated during Sunday evening vespers (Evening Prayer II) and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Simple in outline, the conferral of certificates issued by the Vatican Secretariat of State is to occur at the conclusion of evening prayer and benediction. The names of those priest-honorees are announced and they come before the bishop to receive the certificate, which inscribes the honor given.
Two levels of honor distinguish the 10 new monsignors in the Diocese of Toledo. Because of their age and years of service, two senior priests and two priests currently serving in the canonical position of Vicar General in the diocese have been given the rank “Prelate of Honor to His Holiness.” The six remaining priest-honorees have been named with the rank “Chaplain to His Holiness.”
Their respective designation is most noticeable by the monsignoral vesture, which they may or may not choose to wear: Prelates of honor are permitted to wear the purple cassock and the cassock with red trimming and red buttons and sash. Chaplains are permitted to wear the black cassock with purple trimming and purple buttons and purple sash.
For a more extensive treatment on the topic of ecclesiastical protocol relative to papal honors for laity and clergy, consult “The Church Visible: the Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church” by James-Charles Noonan, Jr., 1996, and “The Order for the Blessing of Those Receiving Ecclesiastical Honors” found in the ritual “Book of Blessings,” 1989.
Msgr. Charles E. Singler, D. Min., is director of worship and director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Toledo.