What (Who) is a Protodeacon?

See Fr. Z’s latest entry on his blog:

…And who knows if, at last, during pontifical Masses, there won’t return to view next to the Pontiff the Cardinal Protodeacon and the second Cardinal in the diaconal order. Just as once upon a time. Just as it ought to be again today.

Remember, a lot of what I learned about the Curia can be blamed on Henry Morton Robinson…

Is the Protodeacon the senior Cardinal?

The senior Cardinal is the Dean of the College of Cardinals, who is a Cardinal Bishop.


The Cardinal behind the Holy Father, wearing the small miter, is the Cardinal Protodeacon, the highest rank of the Cardinal Deacons. The Cardinal Protodeacon and another Cardinal Deacon attend the Pope on certain occaisions, wearing small white miters and dalmatics. The above photo is taken from an Urbi et Orbi address and benediction.

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In the Byzatine churches (both Catholic and Orthodox) Protodeacon is a title of honor given to secular deacons. Paul Weyrich is a Melkite Protodeacon.

Monastic deacons are elevated to archdeacons.

That would seem akin to the term proto-Cathedral.

That would seem akin to the term proto-Cathedral.>>

To my knowledge, St. Joseph’s Protocathedral in Bardstown, KY, is the only Protocathedral in the USA, originally the cathedral of the Diocese of Bardstown. At some point (I don’t know when) the diocesan see city was transferred to Louisville.

Thus the change of designation to “Protocathedral”.

More basically, it might be helpful to remember that “proto-” means first, and can refer to position in time or in rank. That way when you run across other terms you can see which seems most appropriate.

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