Tag Archives: catholic vocabulary

Vatican Vocabulary 2

vaticanThere exists more lore, legends, and conspiracy theories about the Vatican than the US Government! And everyone can agree–we all love the mystery and intrigue that comes with powerful and prestigious organizations.

One common papal myth is that the Pope never makes a mistake. This might have come about because of the mistaken notions about Papal Infallibility. The term refers to his issuing Church proclamations that are:  1) based on faith and morals;   2) applicable to the entire Church; 3) supported with full Papal authority, as opposed to his private personal beliefs.

Another myth is Saint Joan, the supposed female Pope of the 13th century. Apparently  there’s no actual proof of her ( besides the chair ) in the annals of Vatican documents. But hey! I’m always up for a good conspiracy theory about that myth!

Without further ado, here’s more Papal lexicon!

L thru Z



Lappets:  The two long strips of cloth that hang from the back of the Pope’s headpiece ( tiara)

Martyr: A person who dies for their religious belief. During the 1st century AD many Christians were tortured and killed by evil Roman emperors, thus being martyred.

Missal: A selection of scriptural passages and prayers used during mass.

Mortal: A sin so bad the consequence is Hell.



Pallium: The wide circular collar with front and back strips that the Pope wears over his vestments.

Pontiff: Another name for the Pope. Pre-Christianity the word referred to the highest priests.

Prorogation: Fancy word for putting off a decision or action. Stalling

Purgatory: Spiritual holding place to work off one’s venial (lesser) sins.

Sacrament: There’s 7 of them. 1) Baptism 2) Confirmation 3) Holy Eucharist 4) Penance  5) Sacrament of the Sick  6) Holy Orders  7) Matrimony

scapularmainScapular:  A cloth pendant necklace that has been blessed.

Scrutiny: One conclave vote

See: another word for Diocese

chair2Stella stercoraria/Porphyry Chair: Looks like a toilet seat  and is used to elevate the Pope. The myth is that the chair was used to prove the gender of the Pope, thereby preventing any more Pope Joan snafus-which, evidently, no real proof of such a woman Pope exists.

Strator: Christian leaders who act as helpers to the Pope. Originated when Constantine (first Christian Roman emperor) acted as a groom by leading the Pope’s horse by the bridle.

Synod: another word for council

Synoptic Gospels: Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are all  (pretty much) collaborative accountings

Venial: A sin that’s not so bad as to damn you to Hell.

Veneration: To revere or regard with great respect. A saint can be venerated but not worshipped.

Vicar: A representative.

The Catholic Church is in the thick of choosing another Pope. I wonder if the new Holy See will also have a twitter account?

Related Posts: Vatican Vocabulary


Vatican Vocabulary

pope Lots of media chatter about the Pope and his successor these last few days! Who will be the new leader of the Catholic Church? If we watched the movie or read Dan Brown’s novel Angels and Demons we might be familiar with some of the terminology. Like any organization, the Church has its own language.

Even though I attended CCD ( Catholic catechism class) during high school  I don’t remember the nuns ever providing us with a papal lexicon.  Such a list might have come in handy during these times.

Pope titles:
  • His Holiness
  • Holy Father
  • Pontiff
  • Papa
  • Vicar of Christ
  • Vicar of Peter
  • Bishop of Rome
  • Holy See
  • Apostolic See

The following is the first of 2  posts defining a bit of the Vatican Vocabulary.

Vatican Vocabulary     A thru J

Adoration: Process by which the candidate with enough votes is declared by the Cardinals( Conclave) to be the next Pope.

Anathema: Condemned for heresy and excommunication by the Pope

Antipope: Men in ancient times who claimed to be Pope, but were not.

Archpriest: A senior priest in the diocese

Benefice: Holding an office that produces an income

Breviary: Prayer book recited during the day

ringBrief: Short communique from Pope which is sealed with the Fisherman’s Ring

Bishop: Kind of like district managers, they manage a region or geographical area.

Bull: Official communique from the Pope to some or Church members. The lead seal makes it official.

Camerlingo: The cardinal who is NOT in conclave, but instead manages Church goings-on

Canonize: A Pope proclaims someone a saint. There’s a whole bunch of rules and proofs for this to occur. Miracles etc…

Cardinal: The Pope’s cabinet, in layman’s terms. They can also be bishops and priests

Collagium: Money paid to the bishop if a priest wanted a concubine (in the Middle Ages)

Conclave: Cardinals locked in a room to elect new Pope. This was done so they didn’t dawdle.

Consistory: Cardinal meetings to elevate new cardinals.

Contumacy: Grievous disobedience

Curia: Executive branch of Church government

Deacon: Person who can preach at mass or help with communicant, but cannot administer the sacraments. Ordained bishop’s assistant.

Diocese: Territory of the bishop.

Excommunication: No longer being allowed to receive the sacraments.

Interstices: You can’t just zip up the Vatican ladder, you know. This is the amount of time between appointments.

Jubiliee: The Pope declares a Holy Year every 25 years or so. It had a much different meaning in ancient times, but I’ll save that for another post.


No, there’s no vocabulary test! Whew!

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