Why is each cardinal assigned to a parish – or titular – church in Rome?

Originally (prior to the mid-5th C, including during the periods of persecution), the term cardinalis referred to every priest either incardinated (lt: from cardus, a hinge turned on a fixed axis) to a See, or intitulated (lt: titus, entitled to, adj: titular) to one.

An incardinated priest would be physically resident at a given See, and a titular priest is one to whom a title is granted, but may or may not be resident.

After the mid-5th C, the term cardinal would be applied to the Archpriest (head priest) of many of the Major Sees, which included the quasi-Dioceses (titulus) of Rome itself.

TItular Sees of Rome

Titular Sees of Rome

By the mid-9th C, seeing the relatively closeness of the Cardinals to the Holy See, Pope St. Stephen III ordered that a Cardinal-Bishop would say the Mass at the Altar of St. Peter in the Lateran Basilica.

After the late middle ages, seeing the importance of many of the metropolitan Dioceses (that is, Diocese who had suffrigan Diocese ‘beneath’ them), many of the Metropolitan Archbishops, Patriarchs of historical Sees would be given a titular parish in Rome to affirm their closeness to the Pope. Also, various Dicasteries of the Roman Curia would be headed by a Cardinal with a titular Church. While these are often associated with various Sees and Curial offices, they are by no means invariable: the Pope can grant or withhold a Cardinalatial See from a given individual by his own authority.




Are there any official prayers for a conclave?

While there are many ways to pray for the election of a new pope (praying the Rosary, offering spiritual sacrifices, etc.) these two prayers, taken from the Roman Missal, may be of particular help in uniting your prayer to the intentions of the universal Church.

Prayer for the Election of a Pope

O God, eternal shepherd,
who govern your flock with unfailing care,
grant in your boundless fatherly love
a pastor for your Church
who will please you by his holiness
and to us show watchful care.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Roman Missal, Third Edition
For the Election of a Pope or Bishop, © 2010, ICEL.

Prayer for the College of Cardinals, Electors of the Pope

O Lord, ruler and guardian of your Church,
pour out, we pray, upon your servants
a spirit of truth, understanding and peace,
that they may strive with all their heart
to know what is pleasing to you
and then pursue it with all their strength.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Roman Missal, Third Edition
For a Council or Synod, © 2010, ICEL.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also released this prayer for the faithful:

O God, true shepherd of all the faithful,
look with kindness on your servant Pope Benedict XVI,
whom you set as head and shepherd of Your Church.

We give you thanks for your grace at work in him
as he had led us by word and example:
in his teaching, in his prayer and in his great love.

Grant him your strength in frailty, comfort in sorrow,
and serenity amid the trials of this world;
and guide your Church, built on the rock of Peter,
with the power of your Spirit as we continue on the path that leads to you.
Through Christ our Lord.


Can my parish use the ‘Mass for the Election of a Pope or Bishop’ during Lent?

The days of Lent have liturgical precedence over both Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and Votive Masses (c.f. Table of Liturgical Days According to Their Order of Precedence, Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar, no. 59).

Such masses may only be said with permission of the diocesan bishop, but not on solemnities, the Sundays of Lent and Easter, the days within the Octave of Easter, and the days of Holy Week (c.f. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 374).

With permission of the diocesan bishop, priests might consider offering

  • Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions
    • 1. For the Church
    • 4. For the Election of a Pope or Bishop
    • 5. For a Council or Synod
  • Votive Masses
    • 9. Holy Spirit
    • 14. All the Holy Apostles
    • 15. Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

This information was provided by Eliot Kapitan, director of the Office for Worship and the Catechumenate of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.