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College of Cardinals

cardinal, church, pope and priests

CARDINALS, COLLEGE OF. The importance in the Roman Catholic church of these advisers of the Pope is shown by their very name " Cardinals," which means " superior" or " excellent" (from the Latin cardo, a " hinge"). The Pope usually seeks their advice on all important questions of church govern ment. Since the year 1059 they have formed a body known as the College of Cardinals, which at the death of a pope is given the important function of choosing the new head of the church. From time to time the Pope presides at a formal meeting of the cardinals, called a " consistory," in which the general affairs of the church are the subject of solemn discussion, and at which important announcements of policies may be made. A greater part of the church administra tion also is conducted by commissions of cardinals, called " congregations" (see Papacy). Though the cardinals rank next below the Pope in importance in the government of the church, this office confers on them no place in the ecclesiastical hierarchy of priest, bishop, etc.

Originally the cardinals consisted of the chief priests of the churches in Rome, together with a cer tain number of deacons, and the bishops of the seven neighboring dioceses. Even today they are dis tinguished as " cardinal bishops," " cardinal priests," and " cardinal deacons," according to the offices which are assigned to them in the churches about Rome.

Not merely Italians are now appointed, but also Roman Catholic clergy from other lands. For exam ple, there are usually three American cardinals, and most other important countries are represented. The cardinals are all appointed by the Pope and hold office for life. Since 1586 their number has been limited to 70, though usually there are a number of vacancies.

All of the cardinal bishops (7) and most of the car dinal deacons (14) live in Rome, but most of the cardinal priests are residents of other countries.

From their bright scarlet hat with its 15 tassels on each side, the official emblem of the cardinal, and from their red robes, we get the name cardinal for a certain shade of red.

Because of its showy scarlet blossoms we also call one variety of lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) the cardinal flower. From the same Latin word the ancients gave the name "cardinal virtue" to justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude, for on those all other virtues "hinge." In the same way the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc., are called "cardinal numbers," as opposed to the "ordinals,'.' first, second, third, etc. And north, south, east, and west are often styled the "cardinal" points of the compass.