A New Cardinal: Signs and Symbols

New York’s New Cardinal

Timothy M. Dolan becomes the eighth cardinal-archbishop of New York.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan will take on multiple new roles when he becomes a cardinal on Saturday — he will have duties serving on Vatican committees, will be in increasing demand to appear at church events around the world, and will be eligible to vote in the conclave at which cardinals choose the next pope. But his new office also comes with new symbols, many of which he will receive this week in Rome.

Archbishop Dolan’s new skullcap, called a zucchetto, will be scarlet, as will many of his vestments. The color represents a cardinal’s willingness to shed his own blood in the service of the Roman Catholic Church.

Roman Catholic cardinals are often addressed as “Your Eminence,” while bishops and archbishops are addressed as “Your Excellency.”

The most famous symbol of a cardinal is the “red hat,” actually a scarlet biretta. The square design is thought to share its origin with the modern graduate cap.

Each new cardinal is assigned a church in Rome, which he assists from afar and which bears his coat of arms. Archbishop Dolan’s titular parish will be Our Lady of Guadalupe in Monte Mario.

The gold ring symbolizes a cardinal’s bond with the church and the papacy. Each pope chooses the design of the ring he gives to the cardinals whom he elevates.

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