Bishop’s Coat of Arms Tells a Personal Story

The Coat of Arms of Bishop Raymond Francis Chappetto, Titular Bishop of Citium, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn

The coat of arms of a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church is composed of a shield which is augmented by a processional cross placed behind the shield and surmounted by an ecclesiastical hat and tassels. A scroll bearing the motto of the bishop is placed below the shield in the full achievement (depiction) of the arms. These external ornaments are governed by heraldic rules established over the course of centuries and modified after the Second Vatican Council by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

The processional cross is gold and is reminiscent of the cross carried before a bishop whenever he officiated at the liturgy. In various forms, it has been used in ecclesiastical heraldry since the 14th century. The hat and tassels, called a gallero, began as a pilgrim’s hat conferred upon the cardinals by Pope Innocent IV. From there, it was adopted by all ranks of the clergy; its color and number of tassels denoted the rank of the wearer. As a heraldic device, it was used in place of the helmet and crest of secular arms. In this case, the hat is green, denoting the episcopal order; the 12 tassels, arranged six to a side, indicate the rank of bishop.

The shield itself forms the most personal part of the bishop’s coat of arms. It developed from the shield carried by the knights of the Middle Ages which were painted in such a way as to enable easy identification of the bearer in the heat of battle. As time went on, conventions regarding the design of the shield were monitored by scholars called heralds. From these martial origins, the Church adapted the principles of heraldry for its own purposes such as seals used in the authentication of documents.


The shield bearing the personal arms of Bishop Raymond F. Chappetto has been designed to reflect his personal history and ministry. The principal colors are silver (usually shown as white), green and blue, representing the heraldic colors of the Abruzzi region of Italy where the bishop’s mother was born and baptized. On the silver bar is a reference to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in particular the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria, where Bishop Chappetto received his sacraments of initiation. It was also the site of his first Mass and the celebration of his 25th anniversary in the priesthood.

Throughout his priesthood, he has served in a number of parishes dedicated to our Blessed Mother and uses this sign as a recognition of his personal devotion to the Mother of the Lord.

On the green stripe in the center of the shield is a golden monstrance, a vessel designed to display the Sacred Host for adoration and contemplation. Here, at the most honorable point of the shield, it represents the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the church and recalls the establishment of Eucharistic Adoration during the Year of the Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is everything in the life of a priest, the heart of his ministry, as he celebrates for the people he serves and from which he draws strength for his service.

In the blue stripe is the lily and carpenter’s square, the symbol of St. Joseph. The lily has three blossoms representing the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The carpenter’s square reminds us of Joseph’s trade by which he provided for the family entrusted to him. Here, the symbol expresses Bishop Chappetto’s personal devotion and gratitude to St. Joseph and is a remembrance of the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught him the foundations of his faith in grammar school.

The achievement is completed by placing a scroll bearing the new bishop’s motto beneath the shield. Bishop Chappetto has chosen “An Instrument of Your Peace” as his motto. The words are taken from the Peace Prayer generally attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. They embody the bishop’s desire to bring the peace of Christ into all that he does in his ministry and to encourage others in the work of the new evangelization, transforming the world into the Kingdom of God.


The Coat of Arms of Bishop Paul R. Sanchez, Titular Bishop of Coeliana, Algeria, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn

The shield bearing the personal arms of Bishop Paul R. Sanchez has been designed to reflect his personal history and ministry. The principal colors are green and blue recalling the Irish and Scottish parts of the bishop’s ancestry. That ancestry is further complimented by a silver (white) saltire (X-shaped) cross which is the symbol of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland who, tradition tells us, was crucified on a cross of this type.

At the top of the shield are two crossed swords over a book, the symbol of the bishop’s patron saint. As a Roman citizen, St. Paul could not be crucified. Instead, he suffered martyrdom by being beheaded. The sword, the instrument of his death, reflects the ancient tradition of using the means of martyrdom to identify the martyr.

The open book represents St. Paul’s writings, the oldest texts of the New Testament, in which he expounds on the mission and meaning of the Lord Jesus and the responsibilities of discipleship.

In the base of the shield is a scallop shell, the symbol of St. James, the patron saint of the Diocese of Brooklyn. The scallop shell has long been associated with St. James as a badge for pilgrims to his shrine at Campostella in Spain, which is also a country of the Bishop’s paternal ancestors. A legend tells that when the body of St. James was being transported by sea, the ship was beset by heavy weather, and the body was swept overboard. It washed up on shore covered in scallops.

The conjuction of these two saints says something about Bishop Sanchez’s mission as a bishop; he is called to spread the Gospel without fear as he walks the pilgrim journey with the Church. On the right and left sides of the shield are two supports for the bishop’s episcopal ministry: the Host and Chalice of the Holy Eucharist and the monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Priests.

Strengthened by the Eucharist and supported by the example and prayers of the Blessed Mother, the bishop bears on his shield, a knight’s protection in battle, the devotions that give him strength and courage in the battle against evil as he strives to proclaim the Gospel.

The achievement is completed by placing a scroll bearing the new bishop’s motto beneath the shield. Bishop Sanchez has chosen “God’s Grace Is Sufficient” as his motto. The words recall the Lord’s words to St. Paul that His grace is sufficient to overcome any temptation or hardship for power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12; 9).

Design and Commentary by the Very Reverend Michael M. Walters, J.C.L., V.F.

Art Work by Sister Gerarda Panek, O.P.