What Is the Difference Between a Catholic Monsignor & a Priest?

Written by thomas craughwell
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"Monsignor" is a title granted to a Catholic priest in recognition of his outstanding service to the church. A monsignor enjoys a higher rank than an ordinary priest, but his function and authority do not change.

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Beginning in the 14th century, priests employed by the pope were addressed as "my lord" or monsignor, in recognition of their service to the papacy.


A bishop who believes that a priest has performed exceptionally petitions the pope to grant the candidate the title of monsignor.


If the pope accedes to the bishop's request, the Vatican Secretariat of State will issue a formal document known as a diploma granting the priest the title and citing all he has done for the church.

Three Types of Monsignors

A "protonotary apostolic" is an honorary member of the Roman Curia, the administrative heart of the church. A "prelate of honour to his holiness" is an honorary member of the pope's court. A "chaplain to his holiness" is an honorary member of the clergy who staff the pope's chapels.

Distinctive Dress

Monsignors wear a black cassock with red or fuchsia buttons and piping, a fuchsia sash and, on ceremonial occasions, a fuchsia cape.

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