Father Anthony Marques, Special to The Catholic Virginian
When Bishop Barry C. Knestout formally enters the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Friday, Jan. 12, he will be wearing insignia that denote his status as a bishop: the pectoral cross and zucchetto from the time of his election, and the miter and ring from his ordination.
Other symbols, appearing later during the Mass of Installation, indicate he is beginning his ministry as the bishop of Richmond — taking hold of the crozier and being seated in the cathedra. Together, these signs express the bishop’s identity as a successor to the Twelve Apostles and the shepherd of the diocese.
The pectoral cross originally served as a container (reliquary) for fragments of the True Cross, although this is no longer a requirement. The term “pectoral” is derived from the Latin pectus (breast), since the pendant hangs at the chest and keeps the memory of the cross close to the heart. A bishop wears the pectoral cross at all times.
A bishop’s skullcap is called the zucchetto, based on the Italian word for “gourd” (zuccha), which refers to its shape. The zucchetto originated as a covering for the tonsure, the shaved crown of the head that used to indicate membership in the clergy. Worn at both liturgical and formal non-liturgical events, a bishop’s zucchetto is purple — technically, amaranth red.
In many liturgical settings, a bishop also dons a miter — pointed headpiece with flaps, which sits atop the zucchetto. This traces its origins to the cap awarded to sporting champions in ancient Greece, and not to the vestment of the same name worn by Jewish priests in the Old Testament. The miter is either ornate or plain white, depending on the occasion. To complete his vesture, a bishop wears a ring signifying his fidelity to the Church, just as a wedding band represents fidelity to one’s spouse.
Readily identifying the bishop as a shepherd is the crozier (derived from the Latin crux, meaning “cross”), which may be used during Mass and other liturgical rites. Officially called the pastoral staff, the crozier resembles the crook that a shepherd uses to corral sheep. For this reason, a bishop holds the crook away from his body, as if catching sheep.
In addition to vestments and accoutrements, there is a furnishing specifically associated with a bishop: the cathedra. The term cathedra means “chair” in both Greek and Latin, and refers to the bishop’s chair in the cathedral, from which this church takes its name. A bishop symbolically assumes the leadership of a diocese upon occupying this chair for the first time. The cathedra also represents the bishop’s teaching authority.
The various symbols of a bishop play an important role in the installation of Bishop Knestout. From the pectoral cross and zucchetto to the crozier and the cathedra, these sacred signs announce that a successor to the Apostles has become the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Richmond.