This is a full length garment that buttons-up at the front worn by clergy. Traditionally it has thirty-three buttons – one for each year of Jesus’ earthly life.
Although most are black, the colour and trimmings denote the rank that the person wearing it holds within the Catholic Church.
· Plain black is worn by priests and deacons.
· Black with red trimmings is worn by a monsignor.
· Purple is worn by a bishop (although it may also be worn by a diocesan master of ceremonies when assisting at a Mass celebrated by a bishop).
· Red is worn by a cardinal.
· White is worn by the Pope (or by missionary priests working in the tropics).
It is part of what is known a “choir dress” and would be worn, together with a cotta, by clergy who attend a Mass but who are not concelabrants. It would also be worn at the celebration of some of the sacraments –for example, when Fr. Paul celebrates the sacrament of Baptism outside of a Mass he will wear a cassock, cotta and stole. Similarly, when he hears confessions he will wear a cassock with a stole over the top.
In the museum that is housed in the former home of Saint Pope John Paul II in Wadowice in Poland there is a diaplay of the four cassocks that he wore during his ordained ministry as: Priest, Bishop, Cardinal and Pope.