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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Preacher Apostolic

A dignitary of the pontifical household

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Preacher Apostolic, a dignitary of the pontifical household. As a regular function, under special regulations, this office was established by Paul IV, in 1555, and formed a part of the great scheme of reforms which that pope was anxious to carry out. The innovation was somewhat unpopular among the prelates, as the preacher Apostolic had to expound wholesome truths before the papal Court, and remind them of their respective duties. Before 1555 several members of the regular clergy, especially of the Franciscans, had preached in presence of the Roman Court. In the period following, among those who filled the office of preacher Apostolic were Alonso Salmerbn, companion of Saint Ignatius, Francis Toleto, S.J., who held the position during seven pontificates, Anselmus Marzatti, Francis Cassini, and Bonaventure Barberini, Minor Capuchins; Toleto, Marzatti, and Cassini were elevated to the cardinalate. By the Brief of March 2, 1753, directed to Father Michael Angelo Franceschi, then preacher Apostolic, Benedict XIV conferred the said dignity in perpetuum upon the Capuchin Order, because of "the example of Christian piety and religious perfection, the splendor of doctrine and the Apostolic zeal" to be found in their institute. Two of the preachers Apostolic during the past century deserve special mention: Lewis Micara of Frascati, who became Cardinal-Vicar of Rome, and Lewis of Trent, chosen to deliver the discourse at the first session of the Vatican Council. At present the office is held by Father Luke of Padua, the former titular, Father Pacific of Sejano, having been elected Minister General of the order.

The preacher is chosen by the pontiff, though generally presented by the predecessor, or by the superior general of the Capuchins. He is notified by a Rescript of the Cardinal of the Apostolic Palace; and becomes ipso facto a Palatine prelate and a member of the papal household, enjoying all the privileges attached to his title. The sermons are delivered in Advent on the Feasts of St. Andrew, St. Nicholas, St. Lucy, and St. Thomas; and on Fridays in Lent, except in Holy Week, when the Passion Sermon is preached on Tuesday.

The papal Court meets in the throne-room in the Vatican; the pulpit occupies the place of the throne. Beside it is placed the bussola, a perforated wooden partition, covered with silver hangings, behind which is the seat of the pontiff. On the appointed day, the preacher with his "socius" is taken to the Vatican in a pontifical carriage, and enters the throne-room; when notified by the master of ceremonies, he draws near the bussola, takes off his mantle, asks the pope's blessing, and ascends the pulpit. The sermon begins with an "Ave Maria", recited aloud and answered by the audience. The pontiff is assisted by his major-domo and the master of the camera. The cardinals occupy the front seats: behind them are the bishops, prelates, and general heads of the Mendicant Orders. Nobody else is admitted without a special permission of the pope. At the close of the sermon, the preacher returns to the pontiff, kisses his feet, takes leave of him, and is driven back to his convent.

F. CANDIDE


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