QUAERITUR: flying a papal flag

From a reader:

The Feast of Sts Peter and Paul is coming up this month which prompted me to order a Papal Flag to fly on that occasion.  What is the custom for flying the flag throughout the year?  Every Sunday, holy days, etc.?  Technically, are we even permitted?


I don’t see why you couldn’t display a papal flag.

I don’t believe there is any special protocol to be observed, other than that which you should observe in regard any other flag flown near your national flag.

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  1. AnAmericanMother says:

    Our parish flies a Papal flag all the time, on a separate flagpole from the U.S. flag, to its left and slightly lower. There’s also one to the right of the sanctuary (along with the flag of the Knights of Malta and I think another. Our rector likes flags. I think he would hang battle honors if he could figure out a justification for it.)

  2. dirtycopper says:

    Our parish has always displayed a Papal flag and AnAmericanMother describes the proper protocol. My Father (a proud US Marine) always told us that when religious services were being conducted it was also permissible to fly a religious pennant above the US Flag. To his knowledge that is the only time a flag should be flown higher than the stars and stripes.

  3. TrueLiturgy says:

    I’m pretty sure there is standard protocol about flying the Papal flag equal or lower than the American flag, but technically speaking, there is no law that says how flags are to be flown on private property. Freedom of expression and all! Government property is another story. I’m all in favor of the Papal flag on the center pole, which is taller than the others, with the American flag and state flag on the other poles. To me, the Papal flag has nothing to do with the sovereignty of Vatican City, but it stands for the Catholic Church, the Church instituted by Christ, and through which we gain the merits of Christ’s death so that we might enter heaven. We are called to place God first in our lives, well then I think it is only fitting that we place His Church before any other institution.


  4. asperges says:

    I don’t know how accurate these rules are but they may be helpful: http://www.ehow.co.uk/list_5999133_laws-flying-u_s_-flag.html

    The attitude in the US towards the national flag is quite different from here in the UK, where we don’t accord ours quite the same significance.

    It would be very unusual, even shocking, to have our flags dispayed on the sanctuary for example. The papal flag is occasionally flown externally on Catholic churches, but rarely if ever permanently.

  5. Thomas Francis says:

    I’m glad this subject came as just the other day I was reminded of one of Father’s posts and a photograph that he posted some time last year about the Papal flag that he flew on a particular day, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what day it was.

    Are there any days of the year that the flag is traditionally flown outside the Vatican?

    And for what it’s worth..I will never post any flag above the Stars and Stripes.

  6. I “fly” a Papal Flag in the form of a window sticker on my car. Or at least I used to; I just traded that car in.

  7. AnAmericanMother says:

    I “fly” this bumper sticker on my SUV, complete with Papal flag:

    I [heart] my German Shepherd

    I need to get another one for my dog truck. It would be much funnier since there are actually dogs inside.

  8. ridiculusmus says:

    One should remember that this is the Vatican City flag, not the Papal flag.

  9. Jacob says:

    Here is a good link with info on flying the US Flag and other flags with it in the US. While it does not impose penalties, leaving that to the states, it is Federal law and ought to be properly observed.

  10. ridiculusmus: this is the Vatican City flag, not the Papal flag

    Now that you mention it, we don’t know what he meant. I am pretty sure he didn’t mean the papal naval ensign.

    I think we can assume that the questioner meant the usual yellow and white flag.

  11. Will D. says:

    Ideally, national flags should be flown at the same level, with the US flag to the right. Other than that, I can see no problem with flying the Vatican flag as desired.

  12. mpolo says:

    I think Flag Code requires you to fly the American flag if you are flying a foreign flag, but it doesn’t have force of law on private property. What you are likely to get if you fail to fly the U.S. flag would be lots of contact from the local chapter of the American Legion that would make you wish you had flown the U.S. flag to begin with.

    There was a case in Arkansas several years ago where a Japanese car dealer had designed a logo with an American Flag in the foreground, and a Japanese flag in the background. Because of the nature of perspective, the Japanese flag was therefore “higher” than the U.S. flag. The American Legion started a big stink about it, and I believe the company ended up changing their logo.

  13. Our parish has both the US and Vatican flags in Church. The seminary that I will be attending flies them alternately on their single flagpole. I’m not sure if there is any special rhyme or reason to it.

  14. RichardT says:

    I like this description of an 18th century Papal flag (can’t find a picture):

    “Dated in 1771, the British Encyclopedia reported a red flag bearing a cross over a stone (near the hoist) and a bear (looking to hoist) at fly.”

    The stone presumably for Peter. The bear would be appropriate for the current Pope.

  15. gloriainexcelsis says:

    I wonder if anyone remembers that, as children in a parochial school, before marching in to class, grade by grade, to a recorded John Phillip Sousa march, we (at least in my school) pledged allegiance to the American flag, followed by a pledge to the Papal flag, which flew below the American flag. I still remember it over 70 years later.Often we sang a patriotic song, as well.

    I pledge allegiance to the cross of Christ and to the Church for which it stands; One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, with grace and salvation for all.

    Does anybody else remember that?

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