In pectore (Latin for "in the breast/heart") is a term used in the Roman Catholic Church to refer to appointments to the College of Cardinals by the Pope when the name of the newly appointed cardinal is not publicly revealed (it is reserved by the Pope "in his bosom"). This right of the pope is rarely exercised, usually in circumstances where the pope wanted to make a statement for later historians about the honor due to a cleric, but did not want to endanger that same cleric in his present circumstances of persecution.

Cardinals appointed in pectore are not necessarily informed of their status. Such an appointee cannot function as a cardinal until his appointment is publicly announced, but once announced he enjoys seniority in the College calculated from the time of his appointment rather than from the announcement of that fact.

Popes may choose to keep cardinals' identities secret out of consideration for:

  • The person's personal safety, when they live under regimes hostile to Catholicism, Christianity, or religion in general.
  • The safety of the person's community, when it is feared that the public naming of a cardinal may lead to discrimination or hostility against Christians in general and/or Catholics in particular.

In pectore cardinals are eligible to participate in papal conclaves only if they are publicly named by the Pope before his death. If he does not reveal their names, their cardinalate ceases upon the appointing pontiff's death. Three popes, Benedict XIV, Gregory XVI and Pius IX, were originally created as cardinals in pectore but all were published quite soon afterward.

Among areas where it is believed that in pectore cardinals, whose names were not later revealed, were named include the People's Republic of China and, before the fall of the Soviet Union and collapse of the Iron Curtain, in central and Eastern Europe.



In the early history of cardinals, all cardinals appointed were published as a matter of course. The first pope to appoint a cardinal in pectore was Pope Paul III, when he named Girolamo Aleandro in this fashion on December 22, 1536, presumably because Aleandro's life would have been in danger if he were named a cardinal. Cardinal Aleandro was published on March 13, 1538. Paul III named five other cardinals in pectore, but all of them were published relatively soon after being originally named.

The first Pope to create a cardinal in pectore without later publishing his name was Pope Pius IV, on February 26, 1561. Historians have always speculated about who unpublished in pectore cardinals were, and it is generally believed that this first unpublished in pectore cardinal was Daniele Matteo Alvise Barbaro, whose appointment as a cardinal would have upset the English monarchy and caused hostilities unwanted by the pope.

Although in pectore appointments were not uncommon in the 17th century, all such appointments were published soon after being made until 1699, when Pope Innocent XII reserved two cardinals that were never published. This trend continued until April 26, 1773, when Pope Clement XIV created as many as eleven cardinals in pectore but none were published.

Late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

As anti-Catholic hostility among various governments became common, in pectore appointments became much more common during the late 18th and 19th centuries. Whereas before 1777 all unpublished in pectore appointments had occurred because the pope making them died soon after, on June 23 of that year Pope Pius VI created two cardinals in pectore and never revealed their names in the remaining 22 years of his papacy. He did the same seven years later for another cardinal.

Pope Pius VII created eleven cardinals in pectore; despite the anti-Church hostility of the French Revolution, all of them were eventually published, as were Pope Leo XII's three in pectore appointments.

The outbreak of major revolutions in Europe during the late 1820s, however, caused the proportion of in pectore appointments to all cardinal appointments to rise dramatically: Pope Pius VIII created thirteen cardinals, but only five of them were ever published, whilst Pope Gregory XVI created as many as twenty-eight cardinals (out of a total of eighty) in pectore (of which five were unpublished).

After the Revolutions of 1848 subsided, in pectore appointments declined. Pius IX made only five such appointments out of 123 cardinals (all published within four years of creation), whilst Pope Leo XIII named only seven cardinals (out of 147) in pectore, of whom all were subsequently revealed.

Modern Papacy

The only in pectore appointment by Pope Pius X, António Mendes Belo, was due to the revolution in Portugal in 1910 and was revealed shortly before Pius died. World War I similarly produced Benedict XV's only in pectore cardinal, Adolf Bertram, who was published after the war ended and became a vigorous opponent of Nazism.

Pope Pius XI created only one cardinal in pectore, Federico Tedeschini (who was nuncio to Spain just before the Spanish Civil War) in 1933 (published 1935). Neither Pius XI nor Pope Pius XII made any other in pectore appointments, either in European countries affected by the possibility of Marxist revolutions and/or World War II or in any other countries.

With the threat of Communism lingering over Eastern Europe and other parts of the globe, Pope John XXIII made three in pectore appointments on 28 March 1960 and never published them, creating the only case of such an appointment expiring during the twentieth century. It is probable according to many sources that one was Josyf Slipyj, (re-)created cardinal and published by Paul VI in 1965. Pope Paul VI made three in pectore appointments but eventually published all of them, including one (Iuliu Hossu) who died before his appointment was published; the other two were Štěpán Trochta (made cardinal 1969, published 1973, died 1974) and František Tomášek (made cardinal 1976, published 1977, died 1992). (Pope Paul VI appointed Joseph Trinh-nhu-Khuê in pectore in the 28 April 1976 announcement of an upcoming consistory, but published that appointment when the consistory was held on the following 24 May.)

Pope John Paul I created no cardinals, whilst Pope John Paul II named four cardinals (of 232 overall) in pectore, of whom all but one were subsequently revealed:

  • Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, Bishop of Shanghai, People's Republic of China - made cardinal 1979, revealed 1991, died 2000.
  • Marian Jaworski, Archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine - made cardinal 1998, revealed 2001.
  • Jānis Pujāts of Riga, Latvia - made cardinal 1998, revealed 2001.
  • The fourth cardinal was created in 2003. John Paul II did not reveal this cardinal's identity prior to his death, or in the 15-page testament he wrote during his papacy and which was released after his death. Consequently, this cardinalate expired. Some suspect that this "secret Cardinal" was Archbishop Stanisław Dziwisz, a close, longtime friend of John Paul II. However, he was made a cardinal at the 24 March 2006 consistory anyway, as was announced by Pope Benedict XVI on 22 February 2006. In February 2005, there was also a speculation that the in pectore cardinal was Joseph Werth, a German-born archbishop of Novosibirsk, Russia (see Moscow News article below).

Term usage

Other than its religious meaning and origin, nowadays in pectore is basically used to refer to either something kept hidden or unrevealed or an expected, but still not official, appointment to an office (especially in politics).

The Italian language version of the phrase – in petto – is also commonly used.

External links

da:In pectore hr:In pectore no:In pectore pt:In pectore ro:In pectore ru:In pectore fi:In pectore sv:In pectore

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