What is a Cardinal in the Catholic Religion?

Cardinals, for the time it takes them to decide who the next pope in the Catholic world will be, are arguably the most important, influential group within the denomination. Ever since 1059, before which the pope had been selected first by the clergy and those of the Roman diocese, then in part by the nobility, the cardinals have held this high power after the pope gained a stronger sense of independence from politics.


Within the realm of the cardinal are different orders, namely bishops, priests and deacons. The cardinal bishops are the high priests of the church. Today, most cardinals are bishops, but the actual term "cardinal bishop" is used to refer only to those from the seven suburbicarian dioceses of the Church in the vicinity of Rome.

There are also cardinal priests. This group numbers the most and is between the bishop and the priest. Today, those named as priests are bishops in their own dioceses around the world. Some, though, hold administrative positions.

Finally, there is the lowest ranked cardinal, the cardinal deacon. Members of this group may opt for the role of cardinal priest after ten years as a deacon. There is a sub-group of deacons known as protodeacon, one of whom would serve as the official announcer of a pope's election and also has the honor of crowning him and conferring to him the pallium.

A newly appointed cardinal, like Haiti's own Cardinal Chibly, is presented by the pope with a gold ring that is kissed by Catholics in the same manner as the pope's own ring would be.

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