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Pontificalis Domus


Pontificalis Domus

This article is part of the series:
Legislation and Legal System of the Catholic Church
The papal arms of Pope Paul VI

The Papal Household, which had been known until then as the Papal Court.


  • Contents 1
    • Introduction 1.1
    • Section I: The Papal Household 1.2
    • Section II: The Papal Chapel 1.3
    • Section III: The Papal Family 1.4
  • Notes and references 2
  • See also 3
  • External links 4



Paul VI begins the letter with his rationale for reorganizing the Papal Household. He notes that "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" (Introduction). His goal in reorganizing its structure will be to stress the "essentially spiritual" mission of the Pope, as well to serve the civic and international aspects of the Pope's office.

He thus divides the Papal Household into two entities: the Chapel (Capella) and the Family (Familia): the Papal Chapel will assist the Pope with his role as spiritual leader of the Catholic religion, while the Family will serve the Pope insofar as he is a publicly recognized sovereign.

To conclude the introduction, Paul VI reinstates the "original and noble" name of the Papal Court: the Papal Household (primigeno et illustri vocabulo Pontificalis Domus tantummodo appellabitur).

Section I: The Papal Household

The first section deals with the overarching structure of the Papal Household. It states that the Papal Household shall be composed of both clergy and laity (1, §1). All members of the Papal Household are subject to the direction of the Prefect of the Apostolic Palace (2), but they are all, both ecclesiastical and lay, appointed by the Supreme Pontiff (3, §1). The tenure of all members of the Papal Chapel is subject to the norms established in the 1967 apostolic constitution Regimini Universae ecclesiae, which reformed the Roman Curia; laity are appointed for a period of five years, but the Pope may extend their term of office (3, §2). All offices will be voided upon the vacancy of the Apostolic See, and no offices are hereditary (3, §3 and §4). Furthermore, all ceremonies of the Papal Household will be categorized as either sacred or civil (sacrae aut civiles); the sacred ceremonies are either solemn or ordinary. (Examples of solemn ceremonies include the coronation of a pope, canonizations, etc.) The civil ceremonies are distinguished as either audiences of official character or of a non-official character (4).

Section II: The Papal Chapel

The second section deals with the organization of the Papal Chapel. It is declared to consist of the following classes of persons (6, §1):

The following offices were abolished or altered: Palatine Cardinals (Cardinali Palatini); prelates di fiocchetto; Prince-Assistants to the Throne (Principi assistenti al Soglio); Majordomo of His Holiness; the Interior Minister; Commander of Santo Spirito; 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 (Cursori Apostolici) (6, §4).

The last point of this section defines the role of clerics of the Papal Chapel, who are to assist the Pope at the altar, under the guidance of the papal masters of ceremonies. 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 are to be joined under the general heading of "Cleric of the Papal Chapel" (6, §5).

Section III: The Papal Family

The third and last section of the document deals with the Papal Family. The Family is composed of both ecclesiastical and lay members. The ecclesiastical members are as follows (7, §1):

The lay members of the Papal Family are composed of the following (7, §2):

Section three goes on to abolish the following offices and positions: Palatine Cardinals (Cardinali Palatini); 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; the Hereditary Quartermaster General of the Sacred Apostolic Palace(Foriere Maggiore); Master of the Horse to His Holiness (Cavallerizzo Maggiore di Sua Santità); General Superintendent of Posts; the Keepers of the Golden Rose; 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) (7, §3).

The Master of the Sacred Apostolic Palace is to retain his office, but under the name of Theologian of the Papal Household (7, §4). The title of Secret Chamberlains Partecipanti (Camerieri Segreti Partecipanti) is abolished; the Secret Almoner and the Sacristan of His Holiness remain in office, but they take respectively the titles of Almoner of His Holiness, and Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City. The Secretary of Briefs to Princes and the Secretary of Latin Letters retain their titles. The responsibilities of the Secretary to Embassies and Secretary of the Wardrobe are commuted to the office of the Prelates of the Antechamber. The title of Sub-Auditor (Subdatarius) remains abolished in both name and office (7, §5). Domestic Prelates and Secret Chamberlains Supernumerary remain part of the Papal Family, but are 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) are to be retained under the title Gentlemen of His Holiness, and the Bussolanti take the new name of Attachés of the Antechamber (7, §7).

The many offices of honorific ecclesiastical titles—i.e., those given to clerics styled Monsignori—are 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 were abolished (8).

The Corps of the Noble Pontifical Guard assumed the name Honor Guard of the Pope (Guardia d'Onore del Papa), and rendered only an honorary service (9). The Swiss Guard, the Palatine Guard, and the Pontifical Gendarmerie remained in service (10).[note 1]

Notes and references

  1. ^ Some sources will say that the Palatine Guard or the Gendarmes were disbanded by the motu proprio, but in fact it was a letter from Paul VI to his Secretary of State on 14 September 1970 which disbanded all the papal armed forces except the Swiss Guard.[1]
  1. ^

See also

External links

  • Pontificalis DomusText of the apostolic letter (Latin)
  • Pontificalis DomusText of the apostolic letter (Italian)
  • The secrets of the Vatican: an American description of the Papal Court (1907)
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