Papal court

Papal court

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The Papal Household or Pontifical Household , called until 1968 the Papal Court (Pontificalis Aula), consists of dignitaries who assist the Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 in carrying out particular ceremonies of either a religious or a civil character.

It is organised into two bodies: the Papal Chapel (Cappella Pontificia), which assists the pope in his functions as spiritual head of the church, especially in religious ceremonies; and the Papal Family or Household (Familia Pontificia), which assists him as head of a juridical body with civil functions.

Papal Chapel

The Papal Chapel consists of ecclesiastics who participate in religious ceremonies wearing their liturgical vestments or the dress proper to their rank and office.

Chanted divine service was held daily in the papal palace, with the Pope in person celebrating or assisting at Pontifical Mass on certain days. After the return of the Popes from Avignon
Avignon Papacy
The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven Popes resided in Avignon, in modern-day France. This arose from the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown....

, these solemn public functions were held in the Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration that was frescoed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio...

 or, on days of special solemnity, in Saint Peter's Basilica. The liturgical celebration ceased to be daily in the course of the nineteenth century.
The motu proprio
Motu proprio
A motu proprio is a document issued by the Pope on his own initiative and personally signed by him....

 Pontificalis Domus
Pontificalis Domus
The apostolic letter motu proprio Pontificalis Domus was issued by Pope Paul VI on March 28, 1968, in the fifth year of his pontificate. Its purpose was the reorganization of the Papal Household, which had been known as the Papal Court before the promulgation of the letter.-Introduction:Paul VI...

 of 1968 abolished some of the titles borne by various groups that had membership of the Papal Chapel. The Annuario Pontificio of 1863 listed the membership of the Papal Chapel of that time on pages 343-366. At present its membership consists of the members of the Papal Family or Household in the narrow sense (Familia Pontificalis, not Domus Pontificalis) and in addition:
  • 1) The College of Cardinals
    College of Cardinals
    The College of Cardinals is the body of all cardinals of the Catholic Church.A function of the college is to advise the pope about church matters when he summons them to an ordinary consistory. It also convenes on the death or abdication of a pope as a papal conclave to elect a successor...

  • 2) The Patriarch
    Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

  • 3) The Archbishop
    An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

    s who head departments of the Roman Curia
    Roman Curia
    The Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the central governing body of the entire Catholic Church, together with the Pope...

  • 4) The Secretaries of the Congregations of the Roman Curia
  • 5) The Regent of the Apostolic Signatura
    Apostolic Signatura
    The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church...

  • 6) The Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota
  • 7) The Presidents of the Pontifical Councils and Commissions
  • 8) The Abbot
    The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

     of Montecassino and the Abbots General of Regular Canons and Monastic Orders
  • 9) The Superior General or, in his absence, the Procurator General of the Mendicant Orders
  • 10) The Auditors
    Auditor (ecclesiastical)
    In ecclesiastical terminology, an Auditor is a person given authority to hear cases in an ecclesiastical court.- Roman Catholic Church :...

     of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota
  • 11) The Voting Members of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • 12) The Members of the Chapters of the three Papal Basilicas (Lateran, Vatican and Liberian)
  • 13) The Concistorial Advocates
  • 14) The Parish Priests (Pastors) of Rome
  • 15) The (five) Clerics of the Papal Chapel
  • 16) Those in the personal service of the Pope

Papal Family (Familia Pontificalis)

The members of this body are subivided into two groups: ecclesiastic and lay. (For the membership in 1863, see pages 367-392 of the Annuario Pontificio
Annuario Pontificio
The Annuario Pontificio is the annual directory of the Holy See. It lists all the popes to date and all officials of the Holy See's departments...

 of that year.)

The ecclesiastics who have membership are:
  • 1) The Substitute of the Secretariat of State
  • 2) The Secretary for Relations with States
    Secretary for Relations with States
    The Secretary for Relations with States is the foreign minister of the Holy See, an official serving within the Secretariat of State and presiding over its "Section for Relations with States." This ex officio archbishop deals with relations between the Holy See and other governments and...

  • 3) The Almoner of His Holiness
  • 4) The President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy
    Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy
    The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy is one of the Roman Colleges of the Roman Catholic Church. The academy is dedicated to training priests to serve in the diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See....

  • 5) The Theologian of the Papal Household
  • 6) The College of the Apostolic Protonotaries Participating
  • 7) The Supernumerary Apostolic Protonotaries
  • 8) The Papal Masters of Ceremonies
  • 9) The Honorary Prelate
    Honorary Prelate
    An Honorary Prelate of His Holiness is a priest to whom the Pope has granted this title. They are addressed as Monsignor and have certain privileges as regards ecclesiastical dress...

    s of His Holiness
  • 10) The Chaplains of His Holiness
    Chaplain of His Holiness
    A Chaplain of His Holiness is a priest to whom the Pope has granted this title. They are addressed as Monsignor and have certain privileges, such as regards ecclesiastical dress....

  • 11) The Preacher of the Papal Household

The lay members are:
  • 1) The Assistant at the Throne
  • 2) The General Counsellor of the State of Vatican City
    Vatican City
    Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

  • 3) The Commandant of the Papal Swiss Guard
  • 4) The Counsellors of the State of Vatican City
  • 5) The President of the Papal Academy of Sciences
  • 6) The Gentlemen of His Holiness
  • 7) The Procurators of the Apostolic Palaces
  • 8) The Attachés of the Antechamber
  • 9) Those in the personal service of the Pope
  • 10) The Aide de Chambre
  • 11) The Dean of the Hall of the Papal Antechamber

The letter motu proprio Pontificalis Domus

On March 28, 1968, Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI
Paul VI , born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 21 June 1963 until his death on 6 August 1978. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it...

 reorganized the Papal Court with an apostolic letter motu proprio, renaming it the "Papal Household" . In changing the name from what it had been for some centuries, Paul VI said he was returning an "original and noble" name. Moreover, many positions were consolidated into new ones or altogether abolished. According to the motu proprio: "Many of the offices entrusted to members of the Papal Household were deprived of their function, continuing to exist as purely honorary positions, without much correspondence to concrete needs of the times."

In the Papal Chapel, the following positions were altered or destroyed: Palatine Cardinals (Cardinali Palatini); prelates di fiocchetto; Prince-Assistants to the Throne
Prince Assistants to the Papal Throne
The Princes Assistant to the Pontifical Throne are hereditary offices of the Roman Curia. They date from the early sixteenth century, and survived the reform of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household in 1968...

 (Principi assistenti al Soglio); Majordomo of His Holiness
Papal majordomo
The papal majordomo or chief steward of the household of the pope is one of the three palatine prelates , concerning whom particulars have been given in the article maestro di camera....

; the Interior Minister; Commander of Santo Spirito
Santo Spirito in Sassia
Santo Spirito in Sassia is a 12th century basilica church in Rome.It has been erected in Borgo Santo Spirito, a street which got its name from the church, placed in the southern part of Rione Borgo....

; Roman Magistrate; Master of the Sacred Apostolic Hospice; Chamberlains of Honor in abito paonazzo; Secret Chaplains and Secret Chaplains of Honor; Secret Clerics; Confessor of the Pontifical Family; Candle-Carrying Acolytes (Ceroferari); Common Papal Chaplains; Porter-Masters of the Virga Rubea; Guardian of the Sacred Tiara; Mace-Bearer; and Apostolic Messenger
Cursores is the plural of the Latin Cursor, 'runner', i.e. Messenger etcetera. There have been various corps of auxiliary officers in various institutions by that name.At universities, the term has been used for the candidates for the license....

 (Cursori Apostolici). Of these offices, the suppressed offices of Secret Chaplain and Secret Chaplain of Honor, Secret Cleric, Acolyte Ceroferari, Common Papal Chaplain, and Porter-Masters of the Virga Rubea were consolidated under the general title of "Cleric of the Papal Chapel".

The Papal Family underwent even more radical changes. Abolished and considered were the following titles: the Palatine prelates (i.e., Majordomo of His Holiness, Master of the Chamber [Maestro di Camera], Auditor of His Holiness); Master of the Sacred Apostolic Hospice
Grand Master of the Sacred Apostolic Hospice
The Grand Master of the Sacred Apostolic Hospice , or Quartermaster-General of the Sacred Palaces, is an hereditary official of the Pontifical Household...

; the Quartermaster-Major (Foriere Maggiore) of the Sacred Apostolic Palace; Master of the Horse
Master of the Horse
The Master of the Horse was a position of varying importance in several European nations.-Magister Equitum :...

 to His Holiness (Cavallerizzo Maggiore di Sua Santità); General Superintendent of Posts
A postmaster is the head of an individual post office. Postmistress is not used anymore in the United States, as the "master" component of the word refers to a person of authority and has no gender quality...

; the Keepers of the Golden Rose
Golden Rose
The Golden Rose is a gold ornament, which popes of the Catholic Church have traditionally blessed annually. It is occasionally conferred as a token of reverence or affection...

; Secretary to Embassies; Esente of the Noble Guard of Service; Chamberlains of Honor in abito paonazzo; Chamberlains of Honor extra Urbem; Secret Chaplains and Secret Chaplains of Honor; Secret Chaplains of Honor extra Urbem; Secret Clerics; Common Papal Chaplains; Confessor of the Pontifical Family; and Secret Steward (Scalco Segreto).

The Master of the Sacred Palace (the Pope's Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 theologian) kept his position, but was henceforth called Theologian of the Papal Household. The titles of Secret Almoner and Sacristan of His Holiness were changed to Almoner of His Holiness, and Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City, respectively, and the responsibilities of the Secretary to Embassies and Secretary of the Wardrobe were commuted into the office of the Prelates of the Antechamber. Domestic Prelates and Secret Chamberlains Supernumerary remained part of the Papal Family, but were henceforth to be called Prelates of Honor of His Holiness and Chaplains of His Holiness, respectively. Likewise, the Secret Chamberlains of the Cape and Sword (di cappa e spada) were retained under the title Gentlemen of His Holiness, and the Bussolanti took the new name of Attachés of the Antechamber. The Camerieri Segreti Partecipanti were outright abolished, as was the title of Sub-Auditor (Subdatarius).

There was also a change in honorific ecclesiastical titles, which were reduced to three categories: Protonotaries Apostolic (de numero and supernumerary), Prelates of Honor of His Holiness, and Chaplains of His Holiness. All the other categories of Monsignor
Monsignor, pl. monsignori, is the form of address for those members of the clergy of the Catholic Church holding certain ecclesiastical honorific titles. Monsignor is the apocopic form of the Italian monsignore, from the French mon seigneur, meaning "my lord"...

i were abolished.


Paul VI, Motu Proprio Pontificalis Domus, 28 March 1968