ASK FATHER: How to become a papal knight of the Supreme Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

Supreme Order of ChristFrom a reader…

QUAERITUR:

How does one become a knight of the Papal Supreme Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

This is the highest papal honor that can be given to a layman.

There are a handful of “papal honors” that are bestowed on lay people. For example, the Order of the Golden Spur, also called the Order of the Golden Militia, is papal knighthood for lay people.  It has its own particular uniform, medallion, star, etc.  The Supreme Order of Christ (also called “Militia of Our Lord Jesus Christ”) was founded by the king and queen of Portugal in 1318 but it was quickly recognized by John XXII. At that time it was handled like a monastic order. In 1507 Julius II released the members of the order from their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Sounds great, right? Wanna be one? Tough luck. It is reserved to Roman Catholic male heads of state and sovereigns.

Even so, it is not automatic for RC sovereigns. King Juan Carlos I of Spain has been given only the Grand Collar of the Pian Order instead of the Order of Christ.   The use of the order was restricted by (who else) Paul VI.  The last time it was awarded was 1987 by Pope John Paul II to Frà Angelo de Mojana, 77th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Right now, there are no living members of the order.   I suspect that Pope Francis won’t bestow it anytime soon.

Oh yes… the existing papal orders are the Supreme Order of Christ, the Order of the Golden Spur, the Order of Pius IX, the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, and the Order of Saint Sylvester.  The last two you see fairly regularly at Masses in their uniforms.

When We are elected and take the Tiara, We shall revive the use of honors.

Keep in mind also the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, the Knights of Malta, the Teutonic Order, and the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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18 Responses to ASK FATHER: How to become a papal knight of the Supreme Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

  1. Prayerful says:

    Presumably Fr Z would become Pope John XXIV, wearing the Pope St John XXIII’s tiara (I know it wasn’t his creation but it’s associated with him the most), just to show that Fr is full of the ‘New Joy’ of Vatican II, and a reminder too of that interesting Pope referenced in the post, although presumably without scholarly speculations on the Beatific Vision. ;)

  2. locutus465 says:

    So I just need to get myself elected president….. Easy enough then.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    “When We are elected and take the Tiara, We shall revive the use of honors.”

    Would that include the Papal Peerage? I always think it is fascinating that President John F. Kennedy’s mother was created a papal countess by Ven. Pius XII. I am probably one of the few people in the U.S. who refer to her as “The Countess Kennedy”.

  4. WmHesch says:

    The “Supreme Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ” was basically a re-branding of the TEMPLARS, which had been disbanded less than a decade prior

  5. APX says:

    So I just need to get myself elected president….. Easy enough then.

    You would likely have more success with becoming Prime Minister of Canada, as you don’t really need more education than a degree in Drama and nice hair. Intelligence and common sense is optional.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    There is also a Portuguese branch of the Supreme Order of our Lord Jesus Christ, a descendant of the Templars, and which was bestowed by the Kings of Portugal. I believe the Republic kept it going, but do not quote me on that…

  7. tjb says:

    “Wanna be one? Tough luck. It is reserved to Roman Catholic male heads of state and sovereigns.”

    You’re assuming no Catholic male heads of state or sovereigns read your blog?

    [Okay… you got me on that one.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. dholwell says:

    There is always the Knights of Columbus for those practical Catholic men interested in working to advance charity, unity, fraternity, and the support of our bishops and priests. Not as fancy, but very satisfying and local. We just started a council at our University, and it is helping in many dimensions, including vocation discernment.

  9. PapalCount says:

    The Knights of Columbus must not be confused with these papal and ecclesiastical orders of knighthood. The papal orders of knighthood and the Knights of The Holy Sepulcher are internationally recognised orders of chivalry of which the Holy Father is sovereign. They are honors bestowed by the pope as a head of state and as well by the head of the Church. The Order of the Holy Sepulcher is structured somewhat differently with a cardinal as Grand Master representing the pope and with an active apostolate in the Holy Land. The Knights of Malta is a 1000 year old order of chivalry recognized as “sovereign” in its own right by many countries including the Holy See. Their Grand Master ranks as a prince and is accorded the status of a cardinal within the Church with the title “Eminent Highness”. You do not join these orders you are appointed to them.
    The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic men’s fraternal insurance and charitable organization that you join. It is not a papal order of chivalry. However, it is a preeminent Catholic men’s association that does incredible good work everywhere and also promotes a deeper spirituality among its members. It is loyal to the Church, its mission and its good works. Every Catholic man and his son(s) should join this important association.
    Pope Francis continues to confer the Order of Pius and the Orders of St Gregory, St Sylvester and Holy Sepulcher(through its Grand Master) on persons recommended to the Holy See by bishops.

    As for the papal nobility no titles have been conferred in any great number in over sixty years or so. Pope St John Paul II did confer the title “count” on some Polish nationals early in his pontificate. Persons holding papal noble titles today would acquire them by hereditary succession.

    Upon a bishop’s recommendation the Holy Father continues to create “monsignors” at the diocesan level to priests aged 65 and over and only then to rank of Chaplain of His Holiness.

  10. defreitas says:

    The Order of Christ was originally established as an order by the King of Portugal in semi continuation of the Templars (in Portugal). The Pope at the time insisted on creating a duplicate order under the Papacy, because he judged that an order named after God the Son should righty be under the authority of the Supreme Pontiffs. The Portuguese order continued none the less, first as a equestrian religious order, and then as a simple nobility honorific. At the end of the Monarchy, the republic continued it as the paramount state order and it remains as such. The order was also extended to the Empire of Brazil by the Braganza dynasty and continued for all it’s 19th century duration. The order has also recently been basterdized by a fake Italian personage who claims to be the legitimate heir to the Crown of Portugal. He has been giving out Portuguese orders left right and center (including to some unsuspecting ecclesiastics). The last I heard he was under investigation for Passport fraud and other illicit activities. Also the silver star that is depicted here is the Royal Portuguese version of the order. Queen Maria I was a great devotee of the Sacred Heart and had little enameled hearts attached to all the emblems of the Orders of Christ, Saint Benedict of Aviz, and Saint James of the Sword.

  11. PapaGregorio says:

    King Baudouin of Belgium (+1993), a devout Catholic, was the last member of the Supreme Order of Christ. There are currently no living members. It is unlikely that Francis will appoint anyone else to the Order.

    If someone is looking to join a Papal Order, the Knights of Malta and of the Holy Sepulchre are generally receptive, though the fees for joining can be cost prohibitive. KofC are always good if you can find a good council. I belong to the Order of St. Lazarus (under Cardinal Duka of Prague), which is very active and generally within an honest working-man’s daily wage. The most important thing is to be a Knight of Christ in whatever capacity we are able. God bless!

  12. jbazchicago says:

    Kindly remember the only two orders recognized by the Holy See that aren’t direct apppointments by the pope are the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and the Equwstrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Teutonic, Constantinosn, etc, are not recognized. This was promulgated by the Secretary of State in Oct. 2012.

    To be a member of the KHS does require some monetary commitment, as we finance 80% of the Latin Patriarchate, it requires a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and a life commensurate with the Gospel and the teachings of the Church. It is an incredible group of people. It’s worth exploring.
    Basil, khs

  13. Geoffrey says:

    It is worth noting that the Order of Malta is actually a lay religious order. Members in the higher degrees take the evangelical vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity.

  14. WmHesch says:

    The Knights of Columbus are a working class American novelty. If drinking cheap beer and buying life insurance is your thing, then by all means… But they are not Knights.

  15. jbazchicago says:

    WmHesch: The Knights of Columbus are a fraternal organization, which they readily admit and they make no pretense of being a chivalrous order in the proper sense.

    That said your dismissive and condescending attitude toward them is uncharitable and unwarrented. They are a very fine group of men who do a lot for the Churc. Their insurance has the highest rating possible, and the proceeds fund hundreds of projects in the US and abroad. They are unwaivering in their support for the Church, vocations, prolife causes, etc, etc, etc,…

    They deserve our gratitude and respect.

    Be nice.

  16. un-ionized says:

    jbaz, i would second what you say. i have been a supporter of the Knights for a long time and they were helpful to me as i went through my disaster at my former parish as most of them are faithful to the true teachings of the Church and were not interested in getting involved in the immorality there.

  17. ghp95134 says:

    Errr… let us not forget:
    Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem
    …It evolved from a faction of the Order of Malta that emerged in France in the 1820s and moved to Britain in the early 1830s, where, after operating under a succession of grand priors and different names, it became associated with the founding in 1882 of the St John Ophthalmic Hospital near the old city of Jerusalem and the St John Ambulance Brigade in 1887….
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Saint_John_(chartered_1888)#CITEREFElizabeth_II2004

    Yes, its fons honorum is HM Queen Elizabeth II … but Catholics are admited.

  18. APX says:


    The Knights of Columbus are a working class American novelty. If drinking cheap beer and buying life insurance is your thing, then by all means… But they are not Knights.

    Maybe things are different in the US, but here in Canada (at least from my experiences) what you say is quite condescending and insulting.

    At our parish they are frequently raising money to help support our seminarians down at OLGS.

    Furthermore, my grandfather was a 4th Degree Colour Corp knight and took his duties and faith very seriously. While not knights in the official sense, they do good work and are deserving of respect.