THE PAPAL ORDERS
ORDERS AWARDED BY THE HOLY SEE OR FOUNDED BY PAPAL BULL
The Papal Orders are awarded in the name of the Supreme Pontiff and are given both as awards of His Holiness as Head of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church and also as Sovereign of the Vatican City State. Membership at one time was conferred by Papal Bull, or by Apostolic Letter, signed by the Pope himself, but since the reforms made in the structure of these Orders at the beginning of the 20th century, the diplomas have been signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State. Since the 29 June 1991 this post has been filled by His Eminence Angelo, Cardinal Sodano. The categories below may be considered to embrace all the legitimate Roman Catholic Orders of Knighthood.
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"It is our hope that this excellent organization will help to unify Papal knights within the continents of North and South America and promote the world brotherhood of knights in service of God, the Church, and humanity. We charge all its members to do their best to fulfill this duty of service."
+Card. A. Sodano
Servants of Christ and Temporal Defenders of Faith
The orders of chivalry granted by the Vatican to both Catholic and non-Catholics include the Order of St. Sylvester, the Order of St. Gregory the Great (Military and Civil Divisions), and the Order of St. Pius IX. These orders are granted as a personal gift of the Pope, through the Secretariat of State. His Holiness is the supreme authority of all Papal orders.
Nominations are made in one of several fashions, including nomination of a candidate through a local Ordinary, nomination by another Prelate, or direct act of the Holy Father himself.
The gift of a Papal knighthood is not an end, but rather an obligation to continued service through the vocation of knight. Membership in these orders is for life. The Papal Orders comprise the Papal Army, though today this role is more honorary and ceremonial. The knights have the responsibility of protecting the physical person of the Holy Father when necessary, and may be called upon to serve as an honor guard for His Holiness or other bishops around the world.
Papal knights serve as a visible reminder of the Church temporal and have the duty to help preserve the temporal framework in which the Church spiritual can thrive. They are to serve as role models to their communities and parishes, and in this capacity encourage continued loyalty to the local Ordinary and to the Holy Father.
Each order has its own distinctive insignia and uniform according to the rank of the member. The Supreme Order of Christ and the Order of the Golden Spur come only in one rank, while the others come in ranks of Knight Grand Cross (the highest), Knight Grand Officer, Knight Commander, and Knight. The insignia and/or uniform may be worn at special Church functions and at social functions.
Though the role of those holding Papal Decorations has changed over the years, those who are Papal Knights and Nobles still have an important role to play in Church and society today. They are the temporal defenders of the faith.