Pope Francis bestows the honorary title “Chaplain of His Holiness” upon retired veteran U.S. Navy chaplain

Pope Francis bestows the honorary title “Chaplain of His Holiness” upon retired veteran U.S. Navy chaplain October 21, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC — Father John L. Kaul, CAPT, CHC, USN (Ret.), is now the Reverend Monsignor John L. Kaul.

Pope Francis has named the Detroit priest who served as a U.S. Navy chaplain for more than a quarter century an honorary “Chaplain of His Holiness.” The conferral carries the title of “monsignor,” a mainly honorific form of address granted priests in recognition of exceptional service to the Church. The Apostolic Nunciature of the United States gave notice of the honor last week to Msgr. Kaul’s current and past bishops, Their Excellencies, the Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, and the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, who surprised the 76-year-old retired Navy chaplain with the news. The Rev. Msgr. Kaul said, “I am so very humbled and grateful for the generous kindness of Pope Francis, Archbishop Vigneron, and Archbishop Broglio in recognizing my 48 years of ministry to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, the government and the Military Archdiocese, and the Archdiocese of Detroit. The Lord’s gracious goodness has overwhelmed me yet again and I am so very appreciative of those who encouraged and mentored me through those years – cardinals, archbishops, senior officers – in this wonderful vocation and ministry which has been the joy of my life.” Born in 1947 Msgr. Kaul was ordained in 1975 for the Archdiocese of Detroit and served as associate pastor to Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn, MI, and St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Clair Shores, MI, before being released for military service in 1982 when he joined the Navy as a commissioned lieutenant and going on to serve as a chaplain with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). His tours of duty included: Following his retirement from the Navy the federal government hired Msgr. Kaul for five years as a civilian contractor to substitute for military service priests in the southeastern United States and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In 2011 he joined the AMS staff and served in various capacities, including for five years as spiritual director for the Warriors to Lourdes project of the Knights of Columbus, until his retirement in 2017. A former appointed member of the Presbyteral Council of the Detroit Archdiocese, Msgr. Kaul still spends his retirement assisting in its many parishes. Archbishop Broglio said, “I am delighted that Pope Francis has numbered Msgr. Kaul among his Honorary Chaplains.  It is a way to recognize his devoted ministry, among other services, as a Navy chaplain, priest at Kings Bay, Georgia, Delegate for Contract Priests, and acting AMS Vocations Director.  Msgr. Kaul also contributed immensely to the Canonical Process in the Cause of Canonization for the Servant of God, Father Vincent Capodanno, and serves on the Board of Directors for the corporation of the Archdiocese.  He has always said ‘yes’ to the needs of this global ‘local’ Church.” Archbishop Vigneron said, “It brings me great joy to see Msgr. Kaul’s decades of ministry to the men and women of our armed services honored by our Holy Father. As we approach Veteran’s Day, a day when we honor all those who selflessly served to protect our country, it is a great blessing to have a military chaplain and son of the Archdiocese of Detroit recognized in such a special manner.” Not all priests are eligible to be a Chaplain of his Holiness—only those who have either worked closely with the Holy Father in the Vatican or have otherwise reached the age of 65 and are considered by their diocesan bishop(s) worthy of the honor. The title “monsignor” is not only an honorific identifying a priest as member of the Papal Court, it also carries certain ecclesial privileges regarding church dress, such as the magenta-piped black cassock. Traditionally the color magenta symbolizes justice, majesty, and sovereignty. It is distinct from the color fuchsia worn by bishops and scarlet worn by cardinals.

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