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Joseph Tibbles wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have seen Cardinals and Monsignors wear the black tunic and a surplice on lots of occasions,
but I can't figure out why some have magenta (pink) lining, buttons and sashes (belts) while others have orange lining, buttons and sashes (belts).

  • Why do Cardinals, Bishops and some Monsignors wear the color vestments that they do?
  • Is it a kind of ranking or ladder like the Army or Navy do?

Thank you,


  { Why do Cardinals and Monsignors wear the vestments they do; is it a ranking like the Army? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Joseph —

Thanks for the question.

Let me answer your question a few different ways.

This posting from our knowledge base will give you a good idea of 1.) what some of the vestments are and 2.) why the color of the vestments are, what they are:

When in choir dress, a Latin-rite cardinal wears scarlet garments — the blood-like red symbolizes a cardinal's willingness to die for his faith like the martyr's did.

I found this piece on EWTN, which all would agree is a trusted source:

This page on Wikipedia will give you a historical outline of what, and when, colors were used:

This Wikipedia page on Vestments tells you the various vestments worn by some major Christian faiths and the rubrics for vesting. Rubrics deal with the rules governing the celebration of the Mass:

  • for priests with valid Holy Orders, and
  • for Protestant ministers for non-Catholic Christian services.


  • Red symbolizes martyrdom; like when the priest celebrates the Mass on the feast day
    of a martyr.
  • Shades of red fall into this category and are usually long standing customs
  • Black symbolizes mortification of one's soul. (This is why most priests wear black.)
  • Violet symbolizes the penance we should be doing for those who have passed on to eternal judgment, and is also used during the Penitential season of Lent.
  • White represents purity and is used on the Solemnity of the Resurrection and on Feasts of Our Lady.

None of the colors represent any ranking.

Hope this answers your question.


Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
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