CHAPTER XII. BIRETTA.
1. Shape. — 2. Materials. — 3. Colors.—4. Concession of the Purple Biretta by Leo XIII.—5. Cardinals.—6. Prelates; Concession Made by Pope Pius X. —7. Final Remarks.
1. The biretta (beretta, biretum, birettum) is an ecclesiastical cap, square in shape, having three "horns" or projections on top, with a tuft ("pompon") of silk (not a tassel) attached where the three horns meet in the middle. In wearing the biretta, the part which has no horn should be to the left.
The form here described is the Roman, and the one generally adopted in this country.
This material must always be woolen in birettas of priests and clerics of lower rank.
Cardinals and Bishops have the use of two birettas, one covered with silk for summer, the other covered with light cloth for winter.
All Prelates, either di mantelletta or di mantellone, wear throughout the year a biretta covered with silk. (a)
3. The color of the biretta varies according to the rank and dignity of the wearer.
Until the Pontificate of Leo XIII., the biretta of Cardinals was red, and that of all the other members of the clergy was uniformly black. (b)
4. However, as a large number of Bishops, Prelates and Canons had presumed to wear the purple biretta under different pretexts, Leo XIII., desirous of establishing a well-marked difference between Prelates invested with the episcopal character and those who were simply priests, granted the exclusive privilege of wearing a purple biretta to all Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops, no others having the privilege. (c)
The letter "Praeclaro divinae gratiae" granting that favor, was issued on February 3, 1888. According to the terms of that document, the biretta is one of ordinary form, entirely purple; and no mention being made of red cords, such ornaments should not be added. In Borne, where official samples are carefully kept by hatters and tailors, these cords are unknown, and the tuft is of purple silk. From answers given by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, we gather that, if such cords are added, they must be of the same color as the biretta. (d)
As will be said when speaking of the Doctors' cap, the episcopal biretta should not be made with four horns, for, though a Bishop is a Doctor of Divinity, his purple biretta is not a sign of his theological attainments, but of his episcopal character. (e)
5. Cardinals wear a red biretta at all times, no matter what the season of the year or the liturgical occasion. The Cardinal's biretta differs from the others in that it has no tuft; at the point where the three horns meet there is a small loop of silk string.
The biretta that Cardinals wear is not the one they received from the Pope, as a token of their dignity, immediately after their promotion to the Cardinalate. Through respect for its origin, they do not wear this biretta sent by the Pope, but place it on a credence-table in their antechamber, between two candlesticks. (f)
6. With regard to the biretta of those Prelates who are not invested with the episcopal character, new regulations have been issued by Pope Pius X. in his motu proprio of February 21, 1905. Speaking of the Protonotaries Apostolic of the first three classes, he says gestare valent .... nigrum biretum, fiocculo ornatum coloris rubini;" ("they may wear a black biretta ornamented with a red-colored tuft"). (g) As to the other Prelates, they have acquired by virtue of the same motu proprio the privilege of ornamenting their black birettas, with a purple tuft: "........nec alio uti colore quam violaceo in bireti fiocculo." (h)
7. The present chapter may be closed with the following remarks:
i) When a privilege is granted to a class of dignitaries, each one of them is considered as bound to make use of the privilege; otherwise, he wrongs the body of which he is a member. Moreover, he has no right to refuse a privilege, the concession of which has been made rather to the body than to him individually.
Now, Pope Leo XIII. has granted to all Bishops the purple biretta to be worn at all times. Consequently, all Bishops are supposed to use this privilege, and to wear the purple biretta, even when wearing the black cassock or simar. The purple biretta does not necessarily require the wearing of the purple cassock. It is the only biretta granted to Bishops, and should be worn at all times. (i)
ii) The lining of the biretta, though apparently a trifling matter, is, however, regulated by etiquette. A Cardinal's biretta is lined with scarlet red; and that of a Bishop, with green. Crimson red lining is reserved for the Prelates di mantelletta. Custom allows the Prelates di man-tellone to use a biretta lined with purple; but the biretta of priests and ecclesiastics of lower rank should have no other lining than black.
(i) The biretta of a Bishop belonging to a Religious Order is purple, no matter what the color of his cassock.
(a) A biretta of velvet is in opposition to these principles, as has been already remarked.
(b) Caer. Episc. I., i., 4.
(c) Const. Praeclaro divinae gratiae, February 8, 1888.
(d) S. R. C, Sept. 6, 1895, in S. lac. de Chile. (Biretum formae ordinariae so coloris violacei, cum fiocculo et funiculis elusdem coloris—a biretta of the ordinary form, and of purple, with tuft and cords of the same color.)
(e) S. R. C, Dec. 7, 1844, in Venusina. —Sept. 6, 1895, in S. lac, de Chile.
(f) Barbier de Montault, op. cit., Tom. I., pp. 282-288.—Un Eveque Suffragant; op. cit., p. 5.— Grimaldi, op. cit., ch. VIII., p. 119.
(g) Constitution Inter multiplices (Febr. 21, 1905), nn. 16, 45.
(h) Constitution Inter multiplices (Febr. 21, 1905), n. 79.