New rules mean only those aged 65 and over will be eligible for role

Pope Francis has decided to limit the honour of “monsignor” among diocesan priests and grant it from now on only to those at least 65 years of age.

The change, which is not retroactive and does not affect Vatican officials or members of religious orders, was announced in a letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State to nunciatures around the world, along with instructions to inform local bishops.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, informed US bishops of the new policy in a letter dated December 30. Msgr Ronny E Jenkins, general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, forwarded the letter to the bishops on Friday.

Of the three grades of monsignor – apostolic protonotary, honorary prelate of His Holiness and chaplain of His Holiness – only the last will be available to diocesan priests who meet the new age requirement.

Bishops must resubmit any pending requests for papal honours in accordance with the new rules.

Archbishop Vigano’s letter did not give a reason for the change, but Pope Francis has often warned clergy against the temptations of careerism and personal ambition.

The archbishop noted that there had been no change regarding the granting of ecclesiastical honours to laypeople.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, noted on monday that Pope Paul VI had reformed the system of ecclesiastical honours in 1968, reducing the number of titles to three.

“Pope Francis’s decision thus follows in the same line, with further simplification,” Father Lombardi said.