A formal meeting of the Sacred College of Cardinals.
One of its functions is the creation, by the pope, of new cardinals in the presence of the College of Cardinals. The consistory is where this takes place.
Cardinals wear the color red which indicates their willingness to sacrifice themselves usque ad sanguinis effusionem, that is, to the point of shedding their own blood, in the service of the Successor of Peter, and even though they reside in the remotest regions of the world, they become the titular of a parish in the Eternal City so that they are incardinated in the Church of which the Pope is Bishop.
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The galero is the official red hat. You often hear of someone being named cardinal and the Pope gives him the red hat. He actually places it on his head. Now, instead of the galero, they are given the biretta, a much simpler headdress. But up until at least Pius XII, in fact until 1969, popes continued the practice of giving the galero. And so it’s very unique looking and a much larger hat than the biretta.
Originally the reason these hats looked so odd and so large was because popes wanted to be able to identify their cardinals in a crowd. So they made them wear hats like this so they would easily stand out. And so that’s part of the history of how they got to be such an odd shape. The galero was designed to wear to significant ecclesial events because it identified them as cardinals. Obviously it was a very impractical headdress–you can imagine it falling off with the wind blowing!
You often see this hat in the top of a cathedral that is the cardinal’s ‘See’. They are placed in nearly all cathedrals that have had cardinals. Upon their deaths, they are hung in the rafters–in some cathedrals ten of them might be lined up, signifying there have been ten cardinals in a particular diocese.
However, if you are elected Pope, that does not happen, because you don’t die as cardinal. So galeros available to purchase are only from a pope, because otherwise they’d be hung in rafters. And so, this is the galero that Pope Pius XI place on the head of Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, on December 16, 1929. So this is quite a significant item since it’s associated with such a great pope, a pope during the most tumultuous time of the 20th century. To have this item associated with his cardinalate, which is the reason he then became Pope, makes it such a great item! —Father Richard Kunst