Every Roman Catholic state of first rank enjoys the right of being represented in the College of Cardinals at Rome by one or several members who have been exalted to that high dignity as natives or naturalized citizens of that state. At the time of the universal domination of the popes, when the Roman see was mixed in all the political concerns of the European states, and before the permanent office of the nuncio had become the regular channel of communication between Rome and the Catholic rulers, the cardinals were the natural representatives of the ecclesiastical and political interests of their respective countries, and their position was, of course, one of considerable importance. But even in recent times their influence has not entirely vanished; for as they are supposed to be best acquainted with the institutions, manners, customs, and language of the nations they represent, and therefore more capable of giving the necessary information about the ecclesiastical situation of those nations, they are still, in the different congregations of which they are members, intrusted with the revision of all accounts and reports on the religious affairs of their provinces, but especially of the references about the worthiness of the elected or nominated archbishops and bishops. Hence their name protectores nationum. With these must not be confounded the clerici mationales, or prelates, who occupy in the College of Cardinals the situation of secretaries, and must be alternately French, Spaniards, Germans; nor the crown-cardicals, i.e. the archbishops and bishops who are proposed for the cardinalate by the ruler of their country, nominated by the pope, and who received the red baret from the hand of their Catholic sovereign, but must go to Rome to receive the red hat out of the pope's own hands. The cardinal protectors reside in their metropolitanate, but have a right, on the decease of the pope, to give their vote in the election of his successor, and are themselves eligible to the papacy. As not every country has one of its natives in the College, one cardinal frequently unites in his hands the protectorate of several countries. — Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. s.v.