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Cordileone Coat of Arms

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Cordileone Coat of Arms


Coat of Arms

Designed by Monsignor Charles Burns, Canon, Basilica of St. Peter

Bishop Cordileone CoatofArms cropped


His Excellency, Bishop Cordileone adopted his coat of arms when he became Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego and the arms reflect his personal heritage, his life as a priest and now as bishop.

Bishop Cordileone’s grandfather, Benedetto Cordileone, was a Sicilian immigrant from Castellammare del Golfo, a fishing village on the northern Sicilian coast approximately forty miles west of Palermo.  He first came with his wife Maria to San Francisco, where he worked as a crab fisherman.  Bishop Cordileone’s father Leon was born there, the second of four sons.  After a few years, the family moved to San Diego, where Benedetto could continue his trade in a climate more favorable to his health (the fourth son was born there). Benedetto’s four sons helped their father with his work, learned the trade and eventually went on to work in the industry themselves.  Bishop Cordileone’s father Leon was a commercial tuna fisherman.

The Episcopal heraldic achievement, or the bishop’s coat of arms, is composed of a shield, with its charges (symbols), a motto scroll and the external ornaments.  The shield, which is central and the most important feature of any heraldic device, is described (blazoned) in 12th century terms that are archaic to our modern language:

Per fess bendy AZURE and ARGENT: in chief a demi-lion rampant OR, armed GULES, holding in its forepaws a heart of the second; in base, the zodiacal sign of Cancer, all GULES.

The shield is divided horizontally into two sections:  the upper half has a blue background with a demi-lion rampant gold, with red tongue and claws holding a red heart. This represents the last name of the Bishop’s family, which means “heart of the lion.” The wavy line separating the two halves of the shield horizontally, along with the blue background in the upper half, represent the family’s connection to the sea.

The lower half is silver with a red crab. The crab represents the family trade as fishermen.  Bishop Cordileone now continues that trade as a “fisher of men” (Lk 5:10). Appropriately then, the crab – symbol of the constellation Cancer which denotes the month of July – also represents significant dates in Bishop Cordileone’s life as a priest that fell within the month of July: the date of his priestly ordination (July 9, 1982) and the date he was named a bishop (July 5, 2002).

Motto “In Verbo Tuo”

The words come from the story of the miraculous catch in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 5.  After fishing all night and catching nothing, Jesus commands the apostles to cast their nets into the deep water: “duc in altum (5:4). From the human perspective it seemed hopeless but Peter put his trust in the Lord and literally takes him at his word: “in verbo tuo” (5:5). As a result they caught such a great number of fish that their nets were at the point of tearing (5:6).

Around the time of the great Jubilee Year of 2000, Blessed John Paul II challenged us with “duc in altum”: to enter into the Third Christian Millennium with courage and bold new pastoral initiatives for the New Evangelization.  When it seems impossible, our response must be that of St. Peter: take the Lord at his word and step out in faith, “in verbo tuo.”

External ornaments

Above the cross is a type of hat called a galero with two tassels or fiocchi on the brim and six suspended on each side from cords.  A green galero is the traditional symbol of a bishop.  The number of tassels is a symbol of rank.