The Papal orders of Chivalry

The Papal orders of Chivalry are awarded in the name of the Supreme Pontiff and are given as awards of His Holiness as Head of the Catholic Church and as the Head of state of the Holy See. The Holy See, a recognized subject of international law and sovereign entity, has awarded the distinction of chivalry since the early medieval period. Originally, the chivalry honors were referred to as superior, personal or hereditary based on the ranks, but today the Papal orders of Chivalry are basically a means by which the pope distinguishes those who have distinguishably served the Roman Catholic Church. The Papal orders of Chivalry are directly under papal protection.

There are orders that that are awarded directly by the Supreme Pontiff as head of the Catholic Church and the Holy See. Some of the most awarded orders are: Supreme Order of Christ, Order of the Golden Spur, Order of Pius IX, Order of Saint Gregory the Great, Order of Saint Sylvester Pope and Martyr, Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Teutonic Order. The Papal orders of Chivalry areunder the protection of His Holiness as Supreme Pontiff and are not considered to be awards of the Vatican State.

Originally, the membership of the Papal orders of Chivalry was conferred by a Papal bull and which not signed by the Pope or by Apostolic Letter, signed by the pope himself. But during the beginning of the 20th century, some reforms were made in the structure of these Orders, and the diplomas have been signed by the Cathedral Secretary of State.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta became a Religious Military Order by a Bull of Pope Paschal II of 1113. The grand Master is elected by the professed, religious members of the Order and serves the office over his lifetime or until he resigns. The elections of the Grand Master must be approved by the Supreme Pontiff.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre was reorganized by Pope Pius IX in 1847, which placed it under the protection of the Holy See. In 1949, Pope Pius XII decreed that the Grand Master of the Order be a cardinal, directly by the pope and serves at his pleasure or until the time he decided to quit office.

The Teutonic Order was founded as a hospital brotherhood in 1190 at Acre. The Teutonic Order became a Religious Military Order of Chivalry in 1198. From 1929, the Teutonic Order has been chastely a Religious Order of priests, brothers and sisters, with a category of 12 nominal knights and unlimited number of associates referred to as Marianer Knights.