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The second rank of members of the college of cardinals. Although now all cardinals are bishops, cardinal priests are so designated in terms of their precedence. Pope Sixtus V decreed that there should be fifty cardinal priests our of a total of seventy cardinals. Formerly, when some cardinals were simple priests, they were nevertheless eligible to vote for the Roman Pontiff. Cardinal priests represent the chief priests of the titular churches in Rome, into which the city had formerly (fifth and sixth centuries) been divided, to form quasi-parishes.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.