"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vatican memo aims to boost priestly identity

Bishops walk through St. Peter's Square on their way to synod meetings on the New Evangelization Oct. 13, 2012. Credit: Mazur-catholicnews.org.uk.

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2012 / 05:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an effort to promote priestly identity, the Vatican Secretary of State has issued a letter asking clerics and religious at the Vatican to dress as befits their identity as priests conformed to Christ.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in an Oct. 15 letter that it is a “time in which everyone is specially called to renew his awareness of and consistency with his own identity.”

This call includes priests and religious who work at the Vatican, he wrote, reminding them that they have “the duty of wearing regularly and with dignity the proper habit, in every season.”

The text of the letter, sent to all the offices of the Roman Curia, was made available Nov. 19 by the Vatican observer and journalist Sandro Magister.

Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa suggested Nov. 16 that it was also a message for the wider Church.

Tornielli said the letter was aimed at refreshing the minds of those who work at the Vatican but also to say that this extends beyond the walls of the Holy See. He added, “it is very rare for priests in the Apostolic Palace not to dress like priests.”

“The call for priests to be more law-abiding and look impeccable is meant to be a subtle example for those who come to the Vatican from outside and are just passing through Rome,” Tornielli said.

Cardinal Bertone's letter, written at Pope Benedict's bidding, recalls a 1982 letter of Pope John Paul II to his vicar general encouraging him to “study opportune initiatives destined to foster the use of ecclesiastical and religious dress.”

Cardinal Bertone said that bishops should faithfully wear the cassock every day during office hours at the Vatican as an example to the clerics who visit the Holy See.

He reminded clerics that at official and papal events, they are to wear the more formal “abito piano.” For bishops and cardinals, this is a cassock with an embroidered cape; for monsignors, a black cassock with piping of Roman purple; and for priests, a cassock with cape.

This new memo from the Secretary of State goes hand in hand with a 1994 document on the ministry and life of priests from the Congregation for Clergy. The congregation’s document said that in a “secularised and materialistic society ... it is particularly important that the community be able to recognise the priest, man of God and dispenser of his mysteries, by his attire as well, which is an unequivocal sign of his dedication and his identity as a public minister.”

“The priest should be identifiable primarily through his conduct, but also by his manner of dressing, which makes visible to all the faithful, indeed and to all men, his identity and his belonging to God and the Church,” it said.

From the Vatican, October 15, 2012

Most Reverend Eminence/Excellency,

by these presents I wish to recall to Your attention the importance of the discipline concerning the daily use of ecclesiastical (cassock or clerical) and religious dress, as determined by the norms on this matter and according to the reasons illustrated and explicated in his day by Blessed John Paul II in the Letter to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, dated September 8, 1982.

At a time in which everyone is specially called to renew his awareness of and consistency with his own identity, at venerable behest I come to ask Your Eminence/Excellency kindly to guarantee the observance of the above on the part of all ecclesiastics and religious in service with this Dicastery/Tribunal/Office/Vicariate, recalling the duty of wearing regularly and with dignity the proper habit, in every season, partly in obedience to the duty of exemplarity (editor's note: this phrase is in italics in the original) that is incumbent above all upon those who render service to the successor of Peter.

The very example of those who, sealed with the episcopal dignity, are faithful to the daily use of the cassock proper to them, during office hours, becomes an explicit encouragement for all, including for the Episcopates and for those who visit the Roman Curia and Vatican City.

On this occasion, moreover, partly in order to avoid uncertainty and to guarantee due uniformity, it should be recalled that the use of the abito piano is required for participation at any event at which the Holy Father is present, as also for the Plenary and Ordinary Assemblies, the Interdicasterial Meetings, the reception of "ad limina" Visits and the various official engagements of the Holy See.

Grateful for the cooperation, I gladly take this opportunity to confirm my distinct and heartfelt respects

for Your Most Reverend Eminence/Excellency

most devoted in the Lord

+ Tarcisio Card. Bertone

Secretary of State

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