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The difference between a Monsignor, Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal

The difference between a Monsignor, Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal

Catholic facts

The difference between a Monsignor, Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal

In the Catholic Church, there’s Hierarchy of Clergy men. Starting from the Pope to the Parish Priest. Each Level of Clergy has his own special roles to play in the church and their Vestments differ from each other. I have discussed about the roles of each category of Priesthood in my previous posts which you can find from this link Categories of priesthood


Today, we are discussing about the difference between the Monsignor, Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal.

The Cassock (a long, close-fitting garment worn by members of the clergy or others participating in church services) and duties of these four priests are confusing to differentiate and these article will help you to know their differences and how to identify one from each other.



A Monsignor

Monsignor is not among the Hierarchy of priesthood in Catholic Church. It is an honorary title given to a Priest working within the Papal court. With time, the title expanded beyond Rome that through the recommendation of the diocesan Bishop, it can be given to priests working outside of Rome who have done an exceptional service to the church.

A Monsignor doesn’t have a duty distinct from any other priest and is not in authority over them. Recently Pope Francis limited the expansion of Monsignor title to its formal state, to be given only to priest working within the Papal court.

As a priest working in the Papal court, the Monsignor wears Purple or black cassock with purple button and stripes. He doesn’t wear a Zucchetto (skull cap) or pectoral cross. These distinguishes him from a bishop.

A Monsignor can be addressed as “Reverend Monsignor ” followed by first name then last name. Monsignor can be abbreviated as “Msgr”.


The color purple which is close to magenta is connected to the ancient Roman tradition of clothing new dignitaries with purple toga. The color symbolizes justice, regal majesty and sovereignty.


Bishop vestment

A bishop is a clergy with fullness of the sacrament of holy orders. He is assigned by The Pope to lead a diocese.

In the history of the church, green has always been the color for bishops which is why it’s still seen on all bishops traditional coat of arms till date.

The color of bishop was changed from green to amaranth red in the 6th century. The color symbolizes his duty as a leader of a diocese and the power to give the sacrament of holy orders.

When wearing a cassock, he can be identified from a Monsignor by their Zucchetto(skull cap), red linings and Pectoral cross around their neck.

Bishops cassock

An auxiliary bishop is a bishop that assist the diocesan Bishop.

Coadjutor bishop is one who assists a diocesan Bishop and has the right of succession if the diocesan Bishop retires or dies.


Archbishop is a bishop of large metropolitan diocese known as archdiocese. Archbishop is not among the hierarchy of Clergies in the Catholic, it’s a title given to a bishop taking care of an archdiocese. He has the same power and plays same role as other Bishop.

An archdiocese is a larger diocese which has given birth to other diocese or one of historical importance.



A cardinal is a member of college of cardinals. He is known as the Prince of the church because he’s eligible to participate in Papal election . To be a cardinal, you must be a bishop. Once appointed as a cardinal, he becomes close advisor of the Holy Father in matters of the church, capable to vote during Papal election till he’s 80yrs and can be elected the new Pope.

Cardinals provides special assistance to the Pope and bears a special responsibility in their countries and within the worldwide church.

Their vestment color is known as Scarlet. This distinguishes them as prince of the church and member of college of cardinals.

You can also distinguish a cardinal by their Biretta (a hat with 3 or 4 stiffened corners worn as part of liturgical dress).


When the Pope puts the Biretta on the head of the Cardinal he says  “Accept this scarlet as a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, which signifies your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of Holy Roman Church.”

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My name is Ofomah Stephen. I'm a Catholic writer. I publish articles based on Catholic teachings and doctrines which will help you to understand and know more about the Catholic practices, history, doctrines and teaching.

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