First published August 1996

Official Statement of the Holy See on Self-Styled Orders

The Holy See regularly publishes statements in l'Osservatore Romano, its official publication, regarding self-styled orders. The following statement (taken from H. E. Cardinale's book: Orders of Knighthood, Awards and the Holy See, 1983) was published in 1953 and 1970.

"Since some time one can observe the deplorable phenomenon of the appearance of alleged Orders of Knighthood originating from private initiatives and aiming at replacing the legitimate forms of chivalric awards.

As we have previously pointed out, these so-called Orders take their name from Orders which have in fact already existed but are now extinct since many centuries or from Orders which had been planned but were never realized or, finally, from Orders which are truly fictitious and have no historical precedent at all.

To increase the confusion of those who are not aware of the true history of Orders of Knighthood and of their juridical condition, these private initiatives, which style themselves as autonomous, are qualified by appellations which had reason to exist in the past and which belong exclusively to authentic Orders duly approved by the Holy See.

Thus, with a terminology which is almost monotonous these alleged Orders claim for themselves-in differing degrees - such titles as Sacred, Military, Equestrian, Chivalric, Constantinian, Capitular, Sovereign, Nobiliary, Religious, Angelical, Celestial, Lascaris, Imperial, Royal, Delcassian, etc.

Among these private initiatives, which in no way are approved of or recognized by the Holy See, one can find alleged Orders such as the following:

  • St. Mary of Our Lady of Bethlehem;
  • St. John of Acre;
  • St. John the Baptist;
  • St. Thomas;
  • St. Lazarus;
  • St. George of Burgundy orof Belgium or of Miolans;
  • St. George of Carinthia;
  • Constantinian Lascaris Angelical Order of the Golden Militia;
  • The Crown of Thorns;
  • The Lion of the Black Cross;
  • St. Hubert of Lorraine or of Bar;
  • The Concord;
  • Our Lady of Peace.

To all these alleged Orders of Knighthood and similar ones, with the adjoining more or less international Gol, Silver and Blue Cross Associations, those Orders must certainly be added which, together with one of the names mentioned above, have taken the titles:

  • of Mercy;
  • of St. Bridget of Sweden;
  • of St. Rita of Cascia;
  • of the Legion of Honour of the Immaculate;
  • of St. George of Antioch;
  • of St. Michael;
  • of St. Mark;
  • of St. Sebastian;
  • of St. William;
  • of the historical but extinct Order of the Temple;
  • of The Red Eagle;
  • of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, etc.

So as to avoid equivocations which are unhappily possible, all because of the abuse of pontifical and ecclesiastical documents, once granted for religious purposes or for merely monastic Orders, and to put an end to the continuation of such abuses, entaling harmful consequences for people in good faith, we are authorised to declare that the Holy See does not recognize the value of the certificates and insignia conferred to the above-named alleged Orders."

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François Velde

Last Modified: Jul 24, 2002