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The highest order or rank among the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. Originally the designation identified those members of the college of cardinals who were actually bishops, to distinguish them from cardinals who were only priests or deacons. Pope Sixtus V in 1586 determined that there should be only six cardinal bishops, among a total number of seventy cardinals. In 1962, Pope John XXIII decreed that from then on all cardinals should be consecrated bishops.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.