A Papal gentleman, also called a Gentleman of His Holiness, is a lay attendant of the pope and his papal household in Vatican City. Papal gentlemen serve in the Apostolic Palace near St. Peter's Basilica in ceremonial positions, such as escorting dignitaries during state visits and other important occasions. It is a local name for the old court position of valet de chambre. To be appointed is an honor. The appointee is an unpaid volunteer.[1]

History

Count Christopher de Paus, wearing the formal court dress of a papal chamberlain of the sword and cape in Spanish Renaissance style, with a golden chain of office. He was appointed a papal chamberlain by Pope Benedict XV in 1921, reappointed by Pope Pius XI in 1922 and by Pope Pius XII in 1939, and conferred the title of count by Pope Pius XI in 1923.
Count Christopher de Paus, wearing the formal court dress of a papal chamberlain of the sword and cape in Spanish Renaissance style, with a golden chain of office. He was appointed a papal chamberlain by Pope Benedict XV in 1921, reappointed by Pope Pius XI in 1922 and by Pope Pius XII in 1939, and conferred the title of count by Pope Pius XI in 1923.

Not to be confused with Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church or Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals.

Papal chamberlain was prior to 1968 a court title given by the Pope to high-ranking clergy as well as laypersons, usually members of prominent Italian noble families.[2] Many came from families that had long served the Papal Court over the course of several centuries, while others were appointed as a high honor, one of the highest the Papacy conferred on Catholic laymen (often prominent politicians or wealthy philanthropists). They were originally selected from members of Italian royal and aristocratic families. They were members of the Papal Court and it was one of the highest honours that could be bestowed on a Catholic layman by the Pope. Known as Chamberlain of the Sword and Cape (Cameriere Segreti di spada e cappa) when conferred upon laypersons, it was mostly an honorary position, but a chamberlain generally served the Pope for at least one week per year during official liturgical or state ceremonies.[3]

Baron Wilhelm Wedel-Jarlsberg wearing the court dress of a papal chamberlain
Baron Wilhelm Wedel-Jarlsberg wearing the court dress of a papal chamberlain

The position was much coveted. From the days of Pope Leo I (440-461) the pontifical household had included papal chamberlains who were personal attendants on the Pope in his private apartments. They took part in Papal processions behind the Sedia Gestatoria, each wearing formal court dress and distinguished by a golden chain of office. The number of papal chamberlains was never large, although their proximity to the Pope meant that many chamberlains would enjoy notable ecclesiastical careers and some were even promoted to the episcopacy. For priests, it was often the final step before becoming a cardinal. Their privileges were considerable. They ranked ex officio as Knights of the Golden Spur (Order of the Golden Militia) and nobles of Rome and Avignon. Traditionally, priests who were Papal Chamberlains were addressed as "Very Reverend". All appointments were announced in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Present day

The title was abolished in 1968 by Pope Paul VI and replaced with the designation "Gentleman of His Holiness" for laypersons.[2] The clerical rank has been superseded by the designation "Chaplain of His Holiness" which confers the title reverend monsignor.

Prior to Vatican II they provided personal assistance to the Pope on formal state occasions as members of the Papal Court. The Gentlemen of His Holiness are under the Prefecture of the Papal Household. They participate in civil ceremonies and formal receptions for Heads of State, Heads of Government and others.[4] They welcome dignitaries such as ambassadors and ministers who come to the Vatican or Castel Gandolfo to present their credentials and serve as guides, escorting them to meetings with the Pope.[5]

Of approximately 150 Gentlemen who generally serve for at least one week per year during official functions, about two dozen are on staff at a time. They assist at papal audiences, including the Wednesday General Audiences, often bringing children to the pope for a blessing. In addressing an audience with the Papal Gentlemen, Pope Francis thanked them for their service and said,

The various Authorities and other personalities who visit the See of Peter experience their first contact with this House and receive their first impressions through you, dear Gentlemen. As your name indicates, the gifts of politeness and cordiality are therefore necessary to put these people at ease."[6]

The livery is tails and white vest with six double-breasted buttons, bow tie, and a gold collar with the cross of St. Peter. In ecclesiastical heraldry, laypersons so honored may display a golden chain surrounding their coat of arms.

Grand Chamberlains

O'Conor Don, Roscommon, Ireland 1860.[7]

See also

References

  1. ^ Noonan, Jr., James-Charles (1996). The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church. Viking. p. 196. ISBN 0-670-86745-4.
  2. ^ a b Pollard John F., Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican, 1850-1950, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 48 ISBN 9780521812047
  3. ^ Speciale, Alessandro. "All the Pope's Gentlemen", The World, Agence France-Presse, Aug. 17, 2010
  4. ^ Galeazzi, Giacomo (July 11, 2019). "Who presents you to the Pope". LaStampa.
  5. ^ Snizek, Rick. "‘Papal gentleman’ admires pope’s humility", Rhode Island Catholic, March 25, 2013
  6. ^ "Francis receives Papal Gentlemen in audience", La Stampa, January 10, 2014
  7. ^ Irish Times, 1860