In many (most? all?) Catholic sacristies, there is a photograph of the diocesan bishop, and often one of the Pope.


(Authoritative sources preferred to anecdote.)

  • I doubt someone will find an authoritative source for this custom. Personally I can not recall seeing a picture of the local bishop in any sacristy. The picture of the reigning Sovereign Pontiff is very popular in most Churches, but not all. It is, in a way, showing respect to those in authority. Like bowing at Mass: "There’s the simple bow of the head that we use at the Name of Jesus. During the Mass, that head bow is also used at the Name of Mary, and at the Name of the Holy Father." Source
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 3:46
  • If there isn’t a document somewhere that gives an authoritative answer, perhaps someone could e-mail or otherwise contact someone with authority (e.g. archbishop) and ask them for the reason. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


Because from the earliest times, bishops have been seen as the fulcrum of the local Christian community: the priests being their fellow workers; and the deacons their servants. Apostolic succession also comes through the bishops who alone can ordain new bishops and priests.

For example, St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in A.D. 107, writes in his epistle to the Smyrnaeans (Chapter 8):

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

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So while there is no explicit or authoritative documentation on the custom, this is almost certainly the reason sacristies have a photo of the local bishop: showing the centrality of the local bishop, and the authority and jurisdiction which comes from him, to and via the priesthood, to the faithful.

In the Roman Rite we also have the acknowledgement of the local bishop in the Canon (a for all intents and purposes unchanged part of the perennial Roman Rite of Mass):


To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you firstly for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant N. our pope and N. our bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith. Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise—or they themselves offer it—and all who are dear to them: for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true. In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-virgin Mary, mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ,† and blessed Joseph, her spouse, your blessed apostles and martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. ...

The bishop (as well as the pope) serve to symbolize—as well as realize and maintain—unity and catholicity in the communities that make up the one body of the Catholic Church.

  • catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/RM3-EP1-4.htm looks like a reasonable citation for that. The only differences I noticed was a '+' instead of 'and', and no mark on Jesus Christ.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 18:07
  • Many thanks -- very much what I thought, and the Ignatius quote is very apt. (And I really don't think the Roman Canon needs a citation!) Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 18:52
  • @ SolaGratia Great answer, maybe this letter from St. Ignatius of Antioch is the reason why the born-again Christian in recent times had elevated their Pastors role and now call them bishop too, to associate similarities to St. Ignatius definition of church authority. Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 5:40
  • I somehow doubt that given what he and the other early Christians wrote; unless they are being highly selective. But who knows. Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 13:36

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