Coats of the Princes

It is a venerable tradition in the Roman Catholic Church for bishops (and even priests and deacons) to adopt a coat-of-arms. The pattern in the shield is chosen personally by the prelate, while the elements around the shield indicate the prelate's rank and possibly even the office, as determined by rules of ecclesiastical heraldry. Ordained ministers have a right to an ecclesiastical hat or galero, and tassels are hung from the galero on the two sides of the shield. In recent centuries, it is also customary to add a motto below the shield. (Eastern-rite prelates may use a different design such as a mantle below the shield.)

As a summary, the number of tassels on each side of the shield tells the rank of the prelate: 0 for Deacons, 1 for Priests, 2 for Vicars Forane and Vicars Episcopal, 3 for Canons, 6 for Monsignors, Abbots and Bishops, 10 for Archbishops, 12 for Major Archbishops, 15 for Primates, Patriarchs and Cardinals. The colour of the galero usually matches that of tassels: black for Priests and Abbots, violet for Prelates of Honour, green for Bishops, Archbishops and Patriarchs, and red for Cardinals (except for Protonotaries Apostolic who use violet galero and red tassels, and Chaplains of His Holiness who use a black galero and violet tassels). A Bishop uses a golden cross above the shield; an Archbishop uses a golden archiepiscopal cross (two-barred cross); and Abbots uses a crozier. Archbishops who are Metropolitans can use a pallium in the arms.

When the prelates change their office and rank, they adjust their coat-of-arms accordingly. For the 22 prelates to be elevated Cardinals, they may simply change the colour of the galero, cords and tassels to red and the number of tassels becomes 15 on five rows on each side of the shield, while usually leaving the shield unchanged. Below are the existing coat-of-arms of half of the 22 Cardinals-designate.
Note that Versaldi's coat-of-arms was that of his former office as Bishop of Alessandria, and Fr. Grech's coat-of-arms will be used only from his episcopal consecration on February 8 until February 18 when he is created cardinal.

These 11 prelates choose the following mottoes (the mottoes of the others can be seen here):
While prelates may use any language for their motto, it is encouraging to see these 11 choose to use Latin, the official language of the Church.

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