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Glossary of Terms

basilica - a church of greater than average importance. There are four major basilicas in Rome : St. Peter 's, St. John Lateran, St. Paul 's Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major.

Birretta – square, ridged cap worn by cleric in the Latin Catholic Church, the color indicating the rank of the cleric. The cardinal’s biretta is cardinalatial red.

Cardinal Camerlengo - Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church; a cardinal with special responsibilities, especially during the time between the death of a pope and the election of his successor. He safeguards and administers the goods and revenues of the Holy See and heads particular congregations of cardinal for special purposes during the transition.

chasuble - the outer liturgical vestment worn by the presider at Mass.

Code of Canon Law – the codified body of general laws governing the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, promulgated in 1983. Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in common by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, promulgated in 1990.

College of Cardinals - juridic collegial body, composed of cardinals, that provides for the election of the pope and that assists the pope in governing the universal Church on matters of great import, by participation in consistories, formal meetings of cardinals in the presence of the pope. The College has three orders, or ranks -- cardinal-bishop, cardinal-priest, and cardinal-deacon.

Consistory – an assembly of the College of Cardinals, convened by and under the leadership of the Holy Father, for the purpose of discussing Church business

Dean of the College of Cardinals - presides over the College of Cardinals; acts as the first among equals, but has no jurisdiction over the other cardinals; elected by the full College, approved by the pope, and required to reside in Rome .

elector - also known as cardinal elector; a member of the College of Cardinals who has not yet reached his 80th birthday before the pope dies. Pope Paul VI introduced the rule prohibiting cardinals over the age of 80 from participating in the election of a pope in1970.

Fisherman’s Ring - signet ring engraved with the image of St. Peter fishing from a boat and encircled with the name of the reining pope. It is not worn by the pope. It is used to seal briefs and is destroyed after each pope's death.

General Congregation - the full College of Cardinals, acting collectively to administer the Church and the Vatican City State during the vacancy of the Holy See.

miter - the headcovering worn by bishops and some abbots during liturgical celebrations. Two triangular pieces of stiffened material are sewn together on the sides with an opening for the head at the base. Two bands of cloth, called lappets, hang from the back. Eastern Catholic bishops wear crowns.

novendiales - nine memorial Masses celebrated by the cardinals in the basilicas of Rome for the deceased pope on consecutive days before the beginning of the conclave.

papabili - among commentators, those cardinals considered to be the leading contenders to be elected pope

Particular Congregation - a committee of four cardinals, headed by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, entrusted with deciding routine matters during the vacancy of the Holy See. The three assistants to the Camerlengo are chosen by lot from among those cardinals eligible to vote in conclave. They serve for three-day terms, being replaced by the same method.

scrutiny - according to the rules established by Pope John Paul II, the only valid method by which cardinals, casting secret ballots, may elect a new pope.

Sistine Chapel - named for Pope Sixtus IV (d. 1484), the principal chapel of the Vatican Apostolic palace. Famed for its frescoed walls by various artists, especially the ceiling and altar wall painted by Michelangelo; mandated by Pope John Paul II to be the location of future papal elections.

Suburbicarian diocese – the six dioceses around Rome , which together with Rome , form the ecclesiastical province of Rome . The six cardinals with the rank of cardinal-bishop are their titular heads. With the exception of Ostia , each has its own residential bishop. The cardinal who is made titular head of Ostia is the dean of the College of Cardinals. He is also always titular head of another of the suburbicarian dioceses.

Titular church – When an individual is named a cardinal, he is given title to a parish church in Rome or to one of Rome ’s seven neighboring dioceses. The titles are largely honorary and entail no jurisdiction.


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