In any Roman Catholic cathedral throughout the world “successors to the apostles,” the bishops and archbishops who have been chosen by the pope to lead their flock, are honored by having their coat of arms placed prominently somewhere in their cathedral.
The Symbols of Hats and Processional Cross, Cords and Tassels, Numbers and Colors
When one first looks at the coat of arms of the men who have served as Bishop of Syracuse one sees that each coat of arms is distinctive in each bishop’s personal shield, but notice that each of the eight coats of arms in our apse are the same in their external decoration of the green hat called a Galero, and the green tassels which hang down from the green cords on either side of the shield.Also of significant symbolism is the number of tassels present. All bishops and priests can use the Galero in their arms (yes, priests can have arms too).Here is where color plays an important role.In his book on the ceremonial life and protocol of the Roman Catholic Church, The Church Visible, James-Charles Noonan, Jr. tells how the color green, had by the eleventh century, become the color for bishops and archbishops.The Fourth Lateran Council required the color green for patriarchs in 1215.In the Second Council of Lyons, 1274, Pope Gregory X granted the red galero so that his cardinals would stand out in council processions.Note also that our cathedra, a Latin word that means chair and from which the Mother Church of the diocese gets its name of Cathedral, is upholstered in green. All of the arms of our bishops contain 12 green tassels (add up both sides).Twelve is the number of a bishop.If the bishop were the head of an archdiocese or be granted the title archbishop by the pope another row of four would be added to the bottom three for a total of 20 green tassels.For the office of patriarch there would be another row of 5 green tassels added for a total of 30 green tassels.In addition, because of its dignity, the office of patriarch requires the green cords to be interwoven with gold thread.If an archdiocese, because of its size or tradition, is led by a cardinal archbishop or if the pope should designate a man a cardinal for whatever reason the pope sees fit, he would have 30 tassels and their color along with the cords and galero would then be scarlet red. According to Noonan the tradition of green as the color for bishop’s heraldry was also the color of their vesture.He describes this green as “forest green” or a “cloth of the darkest green.”The change to the purplish red for bishops began as early as the pontificate of Gregory XIII (1572-1585) and by the reign of Urban VIII (1623-1644) the change was complete. One very large difference you will note between the newest addition of the arms of Bishop O’Keefe and the rest of the Bishops of Syracuse is the missing crosier (a symbol of the bishops role as shepherd of the diocese) and miter (a symbol of rank) adorning Bishop O’Keefe’s arms.This is in no way a slight to the eighth Bishop of Syracuse but represents a change in the rules of ecclesiastical heraldry that now forbid the use of the miter in a bishop’s arms.The miter may only be used heraldically in the arms of the diocese.The crosier is also no longer allowed to be used by bishops in their arms.This change was made by Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) in 1970.Bishops today are only allowed the use of the processional cross in their arms.These processional crosses are quite distinct for each rank.A bishop has the most familiar cross with single crosspiece.An archbishop has two crosspieces and a patriarch (up until Pope Benedict XVI abolished its use, one of the titles of the pope was Patriarch of the West) would have three crosspieces as a sign of his rank.In 1983 during an extraordinary jubilee year Pope John Paul II used the triple patriarchal processional cross to cross the threshold of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Syracuse
The Diocese of Syracuse coat of arms was chosen by our first bishop Patrick A. Ludden in 1886 when the diocese was erected by Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903).It was taken from the coins of the city of Syracusa, Sicily when the city was part of the Greek Empire.The background is azure (blue) with a cross or (gold) and a dolphin argent (silver) urinant (pointing downwards) on the cross.The crescent, argent, is pointing upward representing the Virgin Mary.The crescent is one of the Blessed Virgin’s symbols.Recall in Revelation 12:1 where she is described as “a woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars“.This description of the Virgin Mary is depicted in the central window in our Cathedral apse and if you look closely you can see the moon, as a crescent, under her feet. Early mariners were quite superstitious and took comfort in the fact that dolphins, which would always swim next to their boats, brought good fortune.Early Christian mariners associated the dolphin with Christ the Savior who was watching over them at sea.The dolphin pointing downwards or urinant, symbolizes the Lord bringing our salvation from His cross.It is quite rare in heraldic depictions to find a charge (character) urinant.Our diocesan coat of arms is quite unique even if it is borrowed from Syracuse, Sicily. Notice that many of the arms of our past bishops and that of our present Bishop of Syracuse, Most Rev. James M. Moynihan share their personal arms (on the right as you face them) with the arms of the diocese.In heraldry this arrangement is called per pale which means side by side.This option is allowed to the bishop if he so chooses.Some of the Episcopal arms in the apse of our cathedral are not per pale but contain only the personal arms of the bishop.There are many reasons for this.Most commonly, it is because the design of the arms of the bishop or of the diocese does not lend itself to placement per pale.Some good examples of this are the coat of arms of our first three bishops, Bishop Patrick Ludden, Bishop John Grimes and Bishop Daniel Curley respectively.
In like manner the arms of the Diocese of Syracuse, as displayed on the chancery building across from the cathedral rectory, depict only the arms of the diocese.
The Coat of Arms of Bishop Joseph O’Keefe
Next to the coat of arms of the diocese is the personal coat of arms of Bishop O’Keefe.Coats of arms are as varied as the men who bear them.Ecclesial arms must follow the rules set by the Church but even then are always unique.Bishop O’Keefe was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York on 8 September 1982.Because any bishop is the head of a church all bishops even if they are not the ordinary (the jurisdictional bishop) are named bishop of a titular church.Bishop O’Keefe when named an auxiliary of the New York Archdiocese was given titular jurisdiction over the ancient church of Tres Tabernae(Three Taverns) found along the Appian Way about 30 miles from Rome.It is known as the place where the Apostle Paul met with his friends on his way to Rome. At the time of his appointment he chose the following charges (characters) for his arms.The base color of the arms is red or gules (signifies strength and magnanimity) with a silver or argent (represents peace and sincerity) saltier, an X shaped cross, (signifies resolution) which are the reverse of the traditional cross of St. Patrick.At the intersection of the cross are the four charges. The top charge, a lily represents St. Joseph, Bishop Joseph O’Keefe’s patron.The upturned crescent represents the Virgin Mary.On either side of the saltier are two lions rampant (represents dauntless courage)facing each other taken from the O’Keefe and O’Sullivan family arms honoring the parents of the bishop.The eagle on the bottom represents St. John the Evangelist remembering the parish where thebishop served at the time of his appointment as a bishop.The bishop’s motto, in Latin, Adspice in Jesum is from the letter to the Hebrews, “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) Pope Benedict XVI goes on to explain in The Ratzinger Report in Chapter 4, page 58, “[T]hose who being ‘successors of the apostles,’ hold the fullness of the sacrament of orders.They are ’authentic teachers’ of the Christian doctrine who enjoy ’ordinary, autonomous and immediate authority in the dioceses entrusted to them’ of which they are the ’principle and foundation of unity.’United in the Episcopal college with their head, the pope, ’they act in the person of Christ’ in order to govern the universal Church.’”
---- Edward J. Long, Historian of the Cathedral
Diocese of Syracuse, New York Coat of Arms
Erected by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) 26 November 1886
Image will be provided at a later time
The coat of arms of the Diocese of Syracuse, New York was chosen by our first bishop the Most Reverend Patrick Anthony Ludden.He chose the arms of the city of Syracusa, Sicily when it was part of the Greek Empire.
The dolphin was always a sign of a good omen by early mariners who found comfort in watching them swim alongside their vessel.It later came to symbolize, to the Christian mariner, Christ watching over them.The azure (blue) background signifies piety and sincerity.The cross or (gold) represents our redemption and the dolphin urinant (pointing downwards) representing Christ bringing salvation from the cross.In heraldry charges urinant are quite rare thus strongly emphasizing the redemption symbol.The upturned crescent argent (silver) represents the Blessed Virgin Mary and comes from the book of Revelation 12:1, “and I saw a great sign in the heavens, a woman clothed in the sun with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head”.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the patroness of the Diocese of Syracuse.
Most Reverend Joseph Thomas O’Keefe
Most Reverend Joseph Thomas O’Keefe
Eighth Bishop of Syracuse, New York
Born, 12 March 1919
Ordained a Priest, 17 April 1948
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of New York
Titular Bishop of Tres Tabernae, 3 July 1982
Ordained Bishop, 8 September 1982
Appointed Bishop of Syracuse, New York, 16 June 1987