Pope Francis Changes Rules on Monsignors

Move Seen as Helping to Combat Careerism Within the Clergy

Confirming rumors over the past few days, the Vatican announced today that in dioceses, the title of “monsignor” will henceforth only be granted to priests who are at least 65 years of age. 

In a statement issued by the Secretariat of State, the Vatican said it had informed bishops’ conferences, through a circular sent via their corresponding nunciatures, that “in the world’s dioceses, the only ecclesiastical title henceforth to be conferred shall be “chaplain of His Holiness”, to which the appellation, “monsignor”, shall correspond. The title shall be conferred only upon priests who have reached the age of 65.”

The circular further clarifies that the use of the title “monsignor” in connection with certain major offices and where this is a cultural practice – such as for a bishop or the vicar general of the diocese - “remains unchanged.”

Concerning the Roman Curia, the Vatican said “no change has been made either in the titles or in the use of the appellation “monsignor”, these being connected to the offices entrusted, and to the service performed.”

The statement added that the new rule “has no retroactive effect” and that those “who received a title in the past, keep it.”

There are three grades of monsignor: apostolic protonotary, honorary prelate of His Holiness, and chaplain of His Holiness. Bishops are asked to resubmit any pending requests for papal honors in accordance with the new rules.

The Vatican did not explain the reasons for the change, but the move is being seen as consistent with Pope Francis’ warnings against careerism and personal ambition within the clergy.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters yesterday that Pope Paul VI had reformed the system of ecclesiastical honors in 1968, reducing the number of titles to three.

"Pope Francis' decision thus follows in the same line, with further simplification," he said.