Procedure of admission to a Pontifical Order of Knighthood in Great Britain
In Great Britain, there are currently no known living recipients of the Pontifical Orders of Christ, the Golden Spur and of Pius IX. Admission to the Pontifical Orders today are therefore proposed to the Pontifical Orders of Saint Gregory the Great and Pope Saint Sylvester (right). There are three usual ways of admission to a Pontifical Order.
- Directly by order of His Holiness The Pope or by him on advice of the Secretary of State of the Vatican City State.
- By proposal of HE The Apostolic Nuncio to the Court of St James’s or his counterparts internationally (as the most senior diplomatic representative of the Supreme Pontiff).
- By proposal of a Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop Ordinary of a Diocese within Great Britain or internationally.
In the vast majority of cases, the recommendation is made by the Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop Ordinary of a diocese, who if he sees fit and deems the candidate worthy enough of further consideration for such a honour, forwards the application with a detailed biography and reasons for the award to HE The Apostolic Nuncio for further consideration. Approved nominations are then forwarded by the Apostolic Nunciature to the Secretariat of State within the Vatican City State.
Following further detailed consideration of the nomination, approved candidates are then formally submitted by the Secretary of State to His Holiness The Pope for final approval, which if granted, a “biglietto” or brief of appointment is drawn up which is then signed by the Secretary of State of the Vatican City State (left) and duly dated and sealed. This is then returned through the Holy See’s diplomatic mission – the Apostolic Nunciature - to the Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop who made the initial submission and who in turn notifies the candidate of the Pope’s decision to award such an honour and will usually present it, sometimes with the appropriate insignia, at a ceremony which may be either public or private.
On occasions candidates born or living in Great Britain have been nominated directly by the Holy Father, by an Apostolic Nuncio or a Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop Ordinary of a diocese outside Great Britain for specific services rendered. Such ceremonies are therefore usually conducted in the place where the nomination originated.
In most cases the ceremony is conducted by the local Ordinary in the recipient's parish church and following a format not too dissimilar to the following:
Investiture of Papal Knight/Dame during Mass
The Knight(s)/Dame(s) to be invested will be seated appropriately with sponsor(s) and family in the front of the church. The Mass of St Gregory the Great may be chosen for the investiture which may follow the reading of the Gospel or just before the final Blessing and Dismissal.
The Cardinal/Archbishop/Bishop, wearing mitre and holding his crozier, with parish priest and master of ceremony process to the front of the altar where the Papal Brief and insignia are displayed on a table.
The MC invites the candidate(s) and sponsor(s) presenting the candidate(s) to approach the edge of the sanctuary.
The Cardinal/Archbishop/Bishop says to the candidate(s) and congregation:
'The Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great/Pope St Sylvester* was founded in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI/ in 1841 by Pope Gregory XVI*. It is conferred as a reward for services to the Holy See and the Church on gentlemen/ladies of proved loyalty who must maintain unswerving fidelity to God, the Supreme Pontiff, the Holy See and the Church.
'Becoming a Knight/Dame does not merely mean receiving a title of honour - even though it is well deserved - but fighting evil, promoting good and defending the weak and oppressed against injustice.
Reading of the Papal decree
Then to the candidate(s) (replace Knight with Dame in the case of a female recipient:
'The Papal Brief which creates you (Name(s)of Candidate(s))a Knight/Knight Commander/Knight Commander with Star/Knight Grand Cross of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great/Pope St Sylvester* reads as follows:
"BENEDICT XVI SUPREME PONTIFF gladly acceding to a request made to Us from which we have gathered that you are most deserving for what you have done for the Holy Catholic Church and its affairs, and in order that We might give a clear sign of Our pleasure and appreciation, We choose, make and declare you
(name) ...... of the Diocese of ...... a Knight/Knight Commander/Knight Commander with Star/Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Gregory the Great/Pope St Sylvester.* We bestow on you the right to use and enjoy all the privileges which go with this high dignity.
Given at St Peter's in Rome on ......
Signed and sealed by the Cardinal Secretary of State".
'I have been delegated by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to invest you with the Insignia of the Order to which he has appointed you.
Oath and Blessing of insignia
'Before performing this solemn task, I must ask you: Do you promise faithfully to maintain unswerving fidelity to God, the Supreme Pontiff, the Holy See and the Holy Church and exercise the office of a Pontifical Knight/Dame in accordance with the high ideals and standards expected of you?'
The candidate(s): ' I promise so to do'.
The presiding prelate blesses the Brief and Insignia saying:
'Almighty and Eternal God, bless these symbols approved by your Vicar, Pope Benedict XVI. We invoke your omnipotent power to confound all evil spirits and protect your servant(s) ...... who, from this day forward, wear them. Protect your Knight(s)/Dame(s0 from all harm and may he/she/they be ever faithful to yo u all the days of his/her/their life. We ask this through Christ, our Lord'.
Investiture of insignia
The MC then addresses the candidate(s): 'Please step forward'
The presiding prelate then continues: 'In the name of the Holy Father I herewith invest you with the insignia of a ...... (as designated) and I present to you the Papal Brief'.
The newly invested Knight(s)/Dame(s) and escort(s) take a step back and bow to the Bishop before all retire to their respective places. The Bishop may at his discretion give the newly invested person(s) a chance to say a word of thanks to him and the congregation.