Latin: cardo, hinge
An ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. Until the Middle Ages the title of cardinal was granted to the prominent clergy of important churches, e.g., Constantinople, Milan, Naples. Cardinals constitute the senate of the Roman pontiff, advising and assisting the pope in the government of the Church. The pope has the sole right to create cardinals freely, and is not bound by any ruling or interference. Cardinals residing in Rome, Italy are called Cardinals of the Court. The names of the newly created cardinals are usually published at a papal consistory. A priest who has been created a cardinal for some time, and whose name has not been published by the pope, is called a cardinal in petto (in the bosom).
The privileges of cardinals are
- precedence over all other ecclesiastical prelates, including primates and patriarchs
- to wear the red, and cardinalitial robes and hat
- almost all the privileges of bishops
- to hear confessions, preach, celebrate Mass anywhere, bless religious articles, erect Stations of the Cross
- a daily privileged altar, etc.
- to vote at aecumenical councils
- to elect the Roman pontiff
There are three classes of of cardinals
- Cardinal-Deacon – the lowest class; often assigned to cardinals who primarily work in the Roman Curia
- Cardinal-Priest – the middle class; often assigned to cardinals who are the ordinary of a diocese or archdiocese; the largest class of cardinals
- Cardinal-Bishop – the highest class; there are only seven cardinal-bishop titles, and one (Ostia) is assigned to the Dean of the College of Cardinals in addition to his other title