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For centuries, up to the Second Vatican Council, the outward visible sign of the clerical state. A lock or sometimes a circle of hair was cut, varying in size, from the top of the head. the baptized and confirmed layman so tonsured was admitted to the clerical state with all privileges in an ecclesiastical ceremony. In 1972, with the apostolic letter Mysteria Quaedam, Pope Paul VI decreed that "The first tonsure is no longer conferred. Entrance into the clerical state is now joined with the Diaconate." This provision applies to the Latin Rite. (Etym. Latin tonsura, a shearing, from tondere, to shear, shave.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.