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Use of 'monsignor' honorific curtailed.

Pope Francis in late December curtailed the practice of granting priests the honorary title of "monsignor," communicating the decision through Vatican ambassadors around the world.

Only diocesan priests over the age of 65 will be eligible to receive the title, which is an honorific of sorts normally granted to clerics as a reward for service to the church or as a sign of some special function they serve in church governance.

Some had criticized the honor, which was usually granted by the pope on the recommendation of the priest's local bishop, saying it led to an air of careerism among the church's clergy.

The first report of the move came Jan. 5 in an article at the Italian newspaper La Stampa's website Vatican Insider. The Vatican's Secretariat of State confirmed the matter in a short statement Jan. 7, saying the move was not retroactive and would not affect current holders of the honor. move does not affect the use of the title by priests in the Vatican's central bureaucracy or by priests holding certain ecclesiastical offices where it has become customary in certain regions of the world, like among diocesan vicar generals in the U.S.

Abolishing the monsignor title had been on the pope's mind since at least October, when sources told NCR it had come up at the first meeting of the Council of Cardinals, the eight-member group of cardinals from around the world who are advising the pope on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy (NCR, Oct. 25-Nov. 7).

The honorific "monsignor" is applied to priests who are granted by the pope certain ecclesiastical titles like "honorary prelate" or "apostolic pronotary."

Pope Paul VI reformed use of the honorific in 1968, reducing the number of ecclesiastical honors from 14 to three. Francis has reduced that number to one, "Chaplain of His Holiness."

--Joshua J. McElwee

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Author:McElwee, Joshua J.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EXVA
Date:Jan 17, 2014
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