Originally, cardinals were simply clergy “incardinated” within the Diocese of Rome. In the 6th century, the cardinals of Rome included the pastor presbyters of the titular churchs and the seven deacons of Rome so that there were “cardinal priests” and “cardinal deacons.” By the 8th century, the title was extended to the seven bishops of the seven “suburbicarian dioceses” surrounding Rome and thus there were also “cardinal bishops.”
This collection of cardinal deacons, cardinal priests, and the cardinal bishops established the “College of Cardinals” that elected the Bishop of Rome from amongst themselves.
- Before the 1900s, it was possible for a man in minor orders to become a “lay” cardinal in the order of cardinal deacons.
- For example, in the 16th century, the Englishman Reginald Pole was a cardinal for 18 years before he was ordained a priest.
- In 1917 it was established that all cardinals, even cardinal deacons, had to be ordained priests.
- In 1962, Pope John XXIII ruled that all cardinals must be ordained as bishops unless given a papal dispensation to remain as a priest. One might recall that John Henry Cardinal Newman (d. 1890) was a cardinal while being a priest and not a bishop.
- For example, His Eminence Albert Cardinal Vanhoye is a cardinal who has not been ordained as a bishop.
- A cardinal who is not a bishop does wear the pontificalia associated with the bishop (mitre, crozier, zucchetto, pectoral cross, ring).
- Here’s the amazing thing about cardinals: even if not ordained as a bishop, any cardinal possesses ecclesial and liturgical precedence above a bishop, and even above an Archbishop or a Patriarch!
- This is why Eastern Patriarchs are now usually made Cardinals.
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