[My thanks to Canon Robert Bader for his permission to reproduce his notes on ecclesiastical headgear, which I found very helpful.]

One often sees Anglican clergy making use of the biretta and zucchetto (skull cap). As far as I know, there is no current Anglican canon or rubric regulating the use of these. But guidance is provided for those who wish to follow the tradition of the Western Church as it has developed over the centuries. A principal source of that guidance has been the Anglican “Ritual Notes,” published in several editions beginning in 1894. For a fuller description of things not covered in “Ritual Notes,” Anglo-Catholics have also consulted Adrian Fortescue’s “Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described,” published in several editions beginning in 1917. Whatever standard of ceremonial we wish to apply, I think it is useful to make a distinction between the use of headgear by bishops as opposed to other clergy. The following guidance is taken from “Ritual Notes” and Fortescue.

Use of the Biretta and Zucchetto by Bishops

When wearing eucharistic vestments or the cope, bishops wear the zucchetto at all times except from the Preface of the Mass through the ablutions. When wearing choir dress, bishops also remove the zucchetto for the Gospel and when they are being incensed.

Bishops make use of the biretta only with choir dress. When the bishop celebrates Low Mass, he simply wears the zucchetto. The bishop wears the mitre when celebrating High Mass or when wearing a cope.

A bishop carries the biretta when walking in church wearing choir dress. He wears it when he is seated and may wear it when standing to give the absolution or blessing in choir dress. He may also wear the biretta and zucchetto with the cassock or choir dress outside of church.

The biretta and zucchetto are never worn in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or when carrying the Blessed Sacrament.

Use of the Biretta by Priests and Deacons

Priests and deacons wear the biretta when walking in eucharistic vestments (chasuble, dalmatic, tunicle) or cope. It is also worn when seated in those vestments. A priest or deacon carries the biretta when walking in church wearing choir dress and wears it when he is seated. He may also wear it when preaching and when he is outdoors. It would strictly also be proper for a priest or deacon to wear the biretta when walking in church with surplice or cotta while wearing a stole. But this should be an infrequent occurrence, as one should normally carry, rather than wear, the stole if one is not in eucharistic vestments or cope. In such cases the stole would be put on before preaching or helping to administer Holy Communion and would be removed after its use is no longer required.

Use of the Zucchetto by Priests and Deacons

Priests and deacons do not wear the zucchetto with eucharistic vestments or cope. They may wear the zucchetto with choir dress. But, unlike the use by the bishop, there is so much removing of the zucchetto required that it is hardly worth wearing by priests and deacons.

When priests and deacons wear the zucchetto in choir dress at Mass, it is removed at: reverencing the altar, being sprinkled with holy water, Confiteor (by extension General Confession in the Prayer Book), Kyrie Eleison, Gloria in Excelsis, Gospel, Creed, being incensed, from the Preface until after the ablutions, and at the Blessing.

At the Divine Office from the Breviary, priests and deacons remove the zucchetto when reverencing the altar, during the Gospel at Matins, at the Confession in Prime and Compline, when intoning the antiphons and psalms, and when singing the Invitatory, lessons, short responses, or Martyrology. This can also be applied to the Divine Office from the Book of Common Prayer.

Priests and deacons may wear the zucchetto with choir dress or the cassock outside of church. Priests and deacons never wear the biretta or zucchetto in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or when carrying the Blessed Sacrament.

Use of the Canterbury Cap

The soft (or Canterbury) cap is not envisioned in the “Ritual Notes” tradition. Those wishing to wear the Canterbury cap should not do so with eucharistic vestments or the cope. The best use with choir dress would be to carry, rather than wear, the cap when in church. It may be worn outdoors with choir dress or with the cassock.

Obviously, these ceremonial points are not of great Christian significance. But there is beauty and order in this ceremonial form, as there is in other forms of Christian ceremonial.

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