Coat of Arms

Traditionally the bishop of a diocese joins his arms with those of his diocese by a process known as impaling. The shield is divided in half vertically, with the arms of the diocese placed in the dexter half (on the viewer’s left) and the arms of the bishop in the sinister half (the viewer’s right)

The dexter side of Cardinal Rigali’s shield, therefore, displays the arms of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which carry symbols of both the secular and the religious history of this local church. The white background and the black horizontal stripe bearing three white circles (Argent, a fess sable) were the arms of William Penn, the first Proprietor of the colony that bore his name. In fact, allusions to Penn’s coat of arms can be seen in the arms of many Philadelphia institutions as well as in the arms of several other dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Behind the stripe appears a pile azure, that is, a blue pennant-shaped section, marked with a white star. This is a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is invoked, under the title of her Immaculate Conception, as the patroness of the archdiocese. In addition, the three white circles (called plates) from Penn’s arms are marked with the Christian cross in red.

On the sinister side of the shield appear the personal arms of Cardinal Rigali. The gold shield is charged with the ancient monogram for Christ known as the Chi Rho because it combines the first two Greek letters in the wordChristos, that is, Christ.

The scroll beneath the shield carries Cardinal Rigali’s motto: Verbum Caro Factum Est, “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). This motto was chosen to honor the exhortation of Pope John Paul II to focus upon Jesus Christ in reference to the third millennium of the Incarnation.

The shield is ensigned with external elements that identify the rank of the bearer. A gold processional cross with two crossbeams appears behind the shield. The upper, smaller crossbeam represents the titulus, or inscription, placed on the Cross of the Lord: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” This type of cross is associated with archbishops and has traditionally been carried in procession at liturgies over which an archbishop presides.

The red galero, or “pilgrim’s hat,” was for centuries part of the distinctive vesture of a cardinal of the Roman Church. Although today cardinals receive a red biretta from the Holy Father rather than this traditional hat, a red galero with five rows of tassels is still used to adorn a cardinal’s coat of arms.

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