Prior General Gilles Wach is referred to as a Monsignor, meaning he must hold one of the three levels of papal honors. I'm not sure when he became a monsignor, but apparently it was before he founded the ICKSP (no confirmation though). His coat of arms has both the galero and tassels all in blue (consistent with his chapter's color scheme), so you can't tell from there what his papal honor is. He also wears a black cassock with a pellegrina and blue piping and fascia, while other canons from the ICKSP usually wear plain black cassocks on similar occasions. I've also seen him in one picture in a blue ferraiolo over the cassock I described above, which if I'm not mistaken is a privilege only granted to supernumerary protonotaries apostolic, but that's not conclusive evidence, so please help if someone knows!

  • Bishops are sometimes called Monsignor. It may a term conceded to the head of their institution according to their norms and constitutions. It probably has nothing to do with the honourary title of a Monsignor as given by the pope.
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 12, 2023 at 22:20
  • You have the inference backwards; the 3 levels of prelates are entitled to be called Monsignor NOT that being called Monsignor implies one is one of those prelates. Some clerical positions (like superiors) are entitled to be referred to as monsignor ex officio. This often means the resignation of the office entails returning to "father"
    – eques
    Jan 12, 2023 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


What level of papal distinction does Prior General Gilles Wach hold?

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Monsignor Gilles Wach as a Monsignor ”durante munere"!

Prior General Gilles Wach did hold the title of monsignor at one time not because he is the head of a religious institution, but because he was at one time a vicar general of a diocese.

When he was no longer the Vicar General of his diocese, the title of monsignor no longer holds.

Other monsignori

Under legislation of Pope Pius X, vicars general and vicars capitular (the latter are now called diocesan administrators) are titular (not actual) Protonotaries durante munere, i.e. as long as they held those offices, and so are entitled to be addressed as Monsignor.

The only privileges of dress that Pope Pius X granted them were a black silk fringed sash, black piping on the biretta with a black tuft,[6] and a black mantelletta. As a result of this they were in some countries referred to as "black protonotaries."[7] However, "Pontificalis domus" of Paul VI removed this position from the Pontifical Household, even though the title of "monsignor", which is to be distinguished from a prelatial rank, has not been withdrawn from vicars general, as can be seen, for instance, from the placing of the abbreviated title "Mons." before the name of every member of the secular (diocesan) clergy listed as a vicar general in the Annuario Pontificio. (Honorary titles such as that of "Monsignor" are not considered appropriate for religious.)

Wach was nominated Vicar General of the Diocese of Mouila, in Gabon, on 19 June 1989, by Cyriaque Obamba, which he was until 1995, when he became Vicar General emeritus. It is in theses years that he received the honorary title of Monsignor from his diocesan bishop in Gabon, Africa requests to Rome.

In general a Monsignor is a title of distinction that certain ecclesiastical dignitaries have the right to have such as archbishops, bishops, abbots and occasionally conventual priors (priors having the authority of an abbot). It is also accorded to some priests granted by the pope.


A title of distinction granted by the Pope to numerous prelates. All ecclesiastical dignitaries including archbishops and bishops have a right to this title.


A French honorific appellation, etymologically corresponding to the English "my lord," and the Italian monsignore. It is, after all, nothing but the French monsieur; but, while the latter has become current as applied to every man who is in good society, Monseigneur has retained its honorific force. In ecclesiastical usage it is reserved for bishops and archbishops, and is chiefly employed when speaking or writing to them. It is used before the name (thus abridged: Msgr. Dupanloup). Formerly it was not prefixed to the title of dignity, but it is now, as "Mgr l'évêque N. . . ." The term Monseigneur is also used as the equivalent of the Italian Monsignore, and as the latter title is given to Roman prelates, some confusion results; in Italy, however, no inconvenience arises from this usage as in that country bishops have the title of Eccellenza, i.e., Excellency. In France, only the Archbishop of Reims, as legatus natus, has the title of Excellency (See Monsignor).

Instead of addressing patriarchs as "Vostra Beatitudine", archbishops as "Your Grace", bishops as "My Lord", abbots as "Gracious Lord" one may without any breach of etiquette salute all equally as Monsignor.

Monsignor Gilles Wach was named Vicar General by his local bishop, which carries the privilege of being addressed as a monsignor.

Alas, the Vicar General carries the title of monsignor.

Q: In Gabon, you have constructed three churches and restored others. You were there yourself as vicar general, which is why one calls you “Monsignor”. CouId you tell us about your African experience?

It is quite true that I was vicar general during five years, under two different bishops. The first of them, Msgr. Obamba, a man of faith and great culture, invited our newly born Institute into his diocese. Our first days with Father Mora, and Father Audin were very difficult on a material level (missions without water or electricity, unusable roads, thousands of small and large animals unknown in our climates). On a spiritual level we had countless consolations such as Masses, sermons, catechism, and visits to missions which had remained without priests for several years.

The second bishop was Msgr. Basile Mve, a great servant of the church, and man of dialogue, who has recently been named Archbishop of Libreville. He has always been a great friend of the Institute. We are happy to have served him for two years. On several occasions he has ordained our seminarians, either in Africa or at Gricigliano. Today I am Vicar General emeritus, and my title was only durante munere. It is by courtesy that one still gives it to me, and those with whom I speak are habitually courteous.

Black Africa is a fascinating country, but today in a very sad state. The church has a great role to play, and I admire the missionaries, priests and religious, who consecrate their lives to it. They are witnesses to the Gospel in a world that is still very cruel. Our Institute has sent several priests and seminarians to Gabon. Their missionary work is without doubt a source of graces for all the members of our Institute. - Twenty Years of Priesthood, Ten Years of Foundation

  • 1
    "Today I am Vicar General emeritus, and my title was only durante munere. It is by courtesy that one still gives it to me," This is the important part to highlight. His title was only by virtue of being vicar general; that is, he was not independently made an honorary prelate
    – eques
    Jan 15, 2023 at 16:06
  • @eques Made appropriate edits.
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 15, 2023 at 19:45
  • Thank you for this very elaborate answer! It would indeed seem that in this case Wach no longer qualifies to be called a monsignor. Then again - in church precedence, people of his station (superiors general of religious societies, such as the ICKSP), do rank above protonotaries apostolic, and therefore all other papally distinguished prelates. For that reason I suppose he is still entitled to be addressed as Monsignor.
    – spiffles
    Jan 25, 2023 at 8:20
  • I've also noticed his propensity for wearing the pellegrina, which as your photo proves, he liked doing even before he was bestowed with his signature colors hehe. Also, he is wearing the episcopal amaranth piping in that pic. I thought vicars general were never entitled to those colors, only honorary prelates of his holiness / protonotaries apostolic were. Not to mention the pellegrina is a bit unorthodox for someone who is not a bishop. Did he just opt to wear these colors based on his role as Vicar General or Prior General before receiving the signature blue colors?
    – spiffles
    Jan 25, 2023 at 8:20

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