In Pectore
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In Pectore

In pectore (Latin for "in the breast/heart") is a term used in the Catholic Church for an action, decision, or document which is meant to be kept secret. It is most often used when there is a papal appointment to the College of Cardinals without a public announcement of the name of that cardinal. The pope reserves that name to himself. The Italian language version of the phrase - in petto - is sometimes used. When the name of a new cardinal is announced or made public, it is sometimes said to be published.

Since the practice arose in the sixteenth century its use has varied greatly. Some popes have used it rarely or not at all, while others have used it regularly. In the first half of the 19th century, Pope Gregory XVI appointed half of his 75 cardinals in pectore and left several unidentified at his death.


Since the fifteenth century, popes have made such appointments to manage complex relations among factions within the Church, when publication of a new cardinal's name might provoke persecution of the individual or of a Christian community or, when the identity of the new cardinal is an open secret, to signal defiance of government opposition or stake out a diplomatic or moral position. Over the centuries, popes have made in pectore appointments in consideration of government and political relations in a wide variety of nations, from Portugal and several European states to the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.

Once his appointment is published, the precedence of a cardinal appointed in pectore is determined by the date of the appointment, not the announcement. This reflects the principle that he has been a cardinal from the earlier date and that membership in the College of Cardinals depends on the decision of the pope, not any ceremony or ritual. The announcement allows the cardinal to receive and wear the symbols of his office, use the titles appropriate to his rank, and to perform the functions specific to a cardinal, most importantly, if otherwise qualified, to participate in a papal conclave. Should the pope die without publishing an appointment he has made in pectore, the appointment lapses.


In the early history of the College of Cardinals, all cardinals appointed were published as a matter of course. Under pressure to maintain a delicate network of alliances in the last years of Western Schism, beginning in 1423 Martin V withheld the names of some he created cardinals, the first in pectore appointments.[1][a] A century later, Paul III created Girolamo Aleandro a cardinal on 22 December 1536 and published his name on 13 March 1538.[5] Paul III later named five more cardinals in pectore, all of whose names were published within a few years.[6]Pius IV created a cardinal in pectore on 26 February 1561 and became the first to fail to publish such an appointment.[7]

Although in pectore appointments were not uncommon in the 17th century, all such appointments were soon published until Innocent XII named two cardinals in 1699 whose names were never published.[8] On 26 April 1773, Clement XIV created eleven cardinals in pectore, none of whom were published.[9]

As anti-Catholic hostility among various governments became common, in pectore appointments became much more common during the late 18th and 19th centuries. Previously cases of unpublished in pectore appointments had only occurred when a pope died shortly after creating the cardinal, but popes began to wait much longer to publish such appointments creating a greater likelihood that a name would remain unpublished. On 23 June 1777 Pius VI created two cardinals in pectore and lived another 22 years without publishing their names.[10] In the course of 23 years, Pius VII created twelve cardinals in pectore whose names he published and none whose names went unpublished, though two others died before he published their names.[11]Leo XII made eight in pectore appointments in just six years and all were published.[12] When the reign of Pius VIII ended unexpectedly after just 19 months, he had created six cardinals, and another eight in pectore whose appointments died with him.[13]Gregory XVI created 81 cardinals, 29 of them in pectore, of which six were unpublished.[14]

Modern practice

The frequency of appointments in pectore declined later in the 19th century. Pope Pius IX made only five such appointments out of 123 cardinals, and all were published within four years of creation. Pope Leo XIII named only seven cardinals out of 147 in pectore and all were published. The only in pectore appointment by Pope Pius X was António Mendes Belo, Patriarch of Lisbon. The Portuguese Republic established in 1910 had adopted severely anticlerical policies. Belo's appointment was revealed on 25 May 1914, the last time Pius created cardinals three months before his death,[15] though the Holy See did not recognize the government of Portugal until 1919. Pope Benedict XV made two in pectore appointments in 1916: one, possibly Paul von Huyn,[16] was never published and the other was Adolf Bertram, a German bishop, whose country was at war with Italy. His name was published in December 1919 after the war ended.[17][18][19] In 1933, Pope Pius XI created two cardinals in pectore: Federico Tedeschini, Nuncio to Spain, and Carlo Salotti, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. They were made public in the consistory of 16 December 1935.[20][21][22]Pope John XXIII made three in pectore appointments on 28 March 1960 and never published them.[23][24][b]

Pope Paul VI made four in pectore appointments. One of them, Iuliu Hossu, died without his appointment being published, though Paul revealed it a few years later.[28] Paul made in pectore appointments of ?t?pán Trochta on 28 April 1969, published 5 March 1973,[29] and Franti?ek Tomá?ek on 24 May 1976, published 22 June 1977.[30] In the case of Joseph Trinh-Nhu-Khuê, Paul made the appointment in pectore on 28 April 1976 when announcing his next consistory. When the government of Vietnam granted Trinh-Nhu-Khuê a visa to travel to Rome, Paul published the appointment as a surprise by having Trinh-Nhu-Khuê's name called as the last of twenty cardinals created at that consistory on 24 May.[31]Pope John Paul II named four cardinals in pectore, three of whom he later revealed: Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, Bishop of Shanghai, People's Republic of China, appointed in pectore 30 June 1979, published 29 May 1991;[32] and Marian Jaworski, Archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine; and J?nis Puj?ts of Riga, Latvia, both appointed in pectore 21 February 1998, and both published 29 January 2001.[33] John Paul created the fourth in 2003, but never revealed the name so the appointment expired with the pope's death. Had the name been discovered in the pope's will, such "posthumous publication" would not have changed that.[34][4] Neither Pope Benedict XVI nor Pope Francis have named any cardinals in pectore.


Four cardinals who were later elected pope were created cardinals in pectore. In each case, publication followed closely upon their appointment. They were:

  • Innocent X, born Giovanni Battista Pamphilj, appointed in pectore 30 August 1627, published 16 November 1629 by Urban VIII[35]
  • Benedict XIV, born Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, appointed in pectore 9 December 1726, published 30 April 1728 by Benedict XIII[36]
  • Gregory XVI, born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, appointed in pectore 21 March 1825, published 13 March 1826 by Leo XII[37]
  • Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, appointed in pectore 23 December 1839, published 14 December 1840 by Gregory XVI[38]

In popular culture

In The Shoes of the Fisherman (1963) by Morris West, a Ukrainian, Kiril Pavlovich Lakota, arrives in Rome and is revealed as to have been appointed a cardinal in pectore by the previous pope.[]

In Vatican: A novel (1986) by Malachi Martin, a pope on his deathbed reveals that he had named the central character, Richard Lansing, a cardinal in pectore.[39]

In The Secret Cardinal (2007) by Tom Grace, the pope enlists a cardinal's godson, former Navy Seal Nolan Kilkenny, to rescue a prelate named a cardinal in pectore twenty years earlier from a Chinese prison.[40]

In Conclave (2016) by Robert Harris, Vincent Benítez, a Filipino serving as Archbishop of Baghdad, arrives just before the start of a conclave with a document that proves he was appointed a cardinal in pectore by the late pope. To explain this unusual procedure, Harris has the dean of the College of Cardinals remind a cardinal that the late pope "revised the canon law on in pectore appointments shortly before he died".[41][42]

See also


  1. ^ Salvador Miranda, who self-publishes a compendium of information about the College of Cardinals, objects to considering these appointments in pectore because Pope Martin shared the names with the other cardinals,[2] though the customary distinction is whether a cardinal's name has been made public.[3][4] and Martin did make names public in a formal way at a later date. For example, in 1426, to meet the terms established by the Council of Constance (1414-18), he named three French and three Italian cardinals, and four more who were English, German, Spanish, and Greek. He kept the names of four more secret, a Spaniard and three Italians, one of them his nephew, which would have been another source of contention. He published these additional names in November 1430, just three months before his death.[1]
  2. ^ One of the three is often said to be Josyf Slipyj, who was made a cardinal by Paul VI in 1965.[25][26] Cardinal Gustavo Testa is cited as the source of this information,[27]


  1. ^ a b Richardson, Carol Mary (2009). Reclaiming Rome: Cardinals in the Fifteenth Century. Brill Publishers. p. 78. Retrieved 2018. Prospero Colonna and Giuliano Cesarini were made cardinals in pectore on 24 March 1426.
  2. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 15th Century (1394-1503), Martin V". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018. These secret creations are different than those created and reserved in pectore. The latter ones [by Paul III] are known only to the pope while the former creations [by Martin V] are also known to the other cardinals.[self-published source]
  3. ^ Beal, John P. (2000). New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. Paulist Press. p. 469. Retrieved 2018. After the Roman Pontiff has made his name public...
  4. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "In Petto". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. "Until they have been publicly announced" and "But the canonists having raised serious doubts as to the validity of such a posthumous publication..."
  5. ^ Alberigo, Giuseppe (1960). "Aleandro, Girolamo". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). 2. Istituto Treccani.
  6. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 16th Century (1503-1605), Paul III". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018.[self-published source]
  7. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 16th Century (1503-1605), Pius IV". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018.[self-published source]
  8. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 17th Century (1605-1700), Innocent XII". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018.[self-published source]
  9. ^ Collins, Roger (2009). Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy. Basic Books. Retrieved 2018.[page needed]
  10. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 18th Century (1700-1799), Pius VI". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018.[self-published source]
  11. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 19th Century (1800-1903), Pius VII". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018.[self-published source]
  12. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 19th Century (1800-1903), Leo XIII". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018.[self-published source]
  13. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 19th Century (1800-1903), Pius VIII". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018.[self-published source]
  14. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals, 19th Century (1800-1903), Gregory XVI". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. OCLC 53276621. Retrieved 2018.[self-published source]
  15. ^ Lentz III, Harris M. (2009). Popes and Cardinals of the 20th Century: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. pp. 20-1.
  16. ^ "Huyn, Paul Gf. von (1868-1946), Bischof". Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon (in German). Retrieved 2018.
  17. ^ Lentz III, Harris M. (2009). Popes and Cardinals of the 20th Century: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland & Company. p. 24. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ "Pope Bestows Red Hats at a Consistory; Rev. J.G. Murray of Hartford Made a Bishop" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  19. ^ "Sacrum Consistorium". Acta Apostolicae Sedis (in Latin). Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis. XI (14): 485, 487-8. 19 December 1919.
  20. ^ Cortesi, Arnaldo (14 March 1933). "Pope Cites Dangers Facing the World in Consistory Talk" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  21. ^ Cortesi, Arnaldo (17 December 1935). "20 New Cardinals Created by Pope" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  22. ^ José M. Sánchez (April 1963). "The Second Spanish Republic and the Holy See: 1931-1936". Catholic Historical Review. 49 (1): 47-68, esp. 65-6. JSTOR 25017192.
  23. ^ "Pope Gives Red Hats to 7 New Cardinals" (PDF). New York Times. 31 March 1960. Retrieved 2017.
  24. ^ Lentz III, Harris M. (2002). Popes and Cardinals of the 20th Century: A Biographical Dictionary. MacFarland & Company. pp. 1-2. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ Kosicki, Piotr H. (2016). Vatican II Behind the Iron Curtain. Catholic University of America Press. p. 32.
  26. ^ Chenaux, Philippe (2009). L'Église catholique et le communisme en Europe, 1917-1989: de Lénine à Jean-Paul II (in French). Cerf. p. 341.
  27. ^ Dorn, Luitpold A. (1988). Giovanni XXIII: gli ultimi testimoni (in Italian). Edizioni Paoline. p. 107. Alla morte del papa Slipyj era uno dei tre cardinali da lui creati e rimasti « in pectore »: glielo confidò il cardinale Gustavo Testa.
  28. ^ Hofmann, Paul (6 March 1973). "Pope, at Installation of Cardinals, Details Possible Reforms in Electing Successors" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  29. ^ Hofmann, Paul (6 March 1973). "Pope, at Installation of Cardinals, Details Possible Reforms in Electing Successors" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  30. ^ Shuster, Alvin (3 June 1977). "Pope Names Top Aide a Cardinal, Making Him Potential Successor" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ Shuster, Alvin (25 May 1976). "Archbishop of Hanoi Among 20 New Cardinals Installed by Pope". New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  32. ^ Haberman, Clyde (30 May 1991). "Pope Names 22 Cardinals; Chinese Prelate Is Identified". New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  33. ^ Stanley, Alexandra (29 January 2001). "Pope Adds 7 Cardinals to a Record 37 Chosen Last Week". New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  34. ^ "With pope's death, secret cardinal will never be known". Baltimore Sun. Los Angeles Times News Service. 7 April 2005. Retrieved 2018. If the holy father had made that person's name known before dying, it would have been disclosed by now," said Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka of Michigan. "It's over. That person will no longer be a cardinal.
  35. ^ Kelly, J. N. D.; Walsh, Michael J., eds. (2014) [2010]. "Innocent X". The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191726811.
  36. ^ Schutte, Anne Jacobson (2011). By Force & Fear: Taking and Breaking Monastic Vows in Early Modern Europe. Cornell University Press. p. 112. Retrieved 2018.
  37. ^ Kelly, J. N. D.; Walsh, Michael (2015). Dictionary of Popes. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2018.
  38. ^ Massaro, Thomas (2010). "The social question in the papacy of Leo XIII". In Corkery, James; Worcester, Thomas (eds.). The Papacy Since 1500: From Italian Prince to Universal Pastor. Cambridge University Press. p. 126. Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ "Vatican by Malachi Martin". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2017.
  40. ^ Gress, Carrie (25 November 2007). "Cardinal's Witness Inspires Novel". Zenit (Interview). Retrieved 2018.
  41. ^ Harris, Robert (2016). Conclave. Robert A. Knopf. pp. 56ff. 'He has a letter of appointment from the late Pope addressed to the archdiocese of Baghdad, which they kept secret at the Holy Father's request.' ... The papers certainly looked authentic....
  42. ^ Sansom, Ian (24 September 2016). "Conclave by Robert Harris review--a triumphant Vatican showdown". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018.

External links

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