Ceremonies, Congregation of

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Known since 1967 as the Prefecture of the Papal Household, the Congregation of Ceremonies was traditionally responsible for the direction of the liturgical and diplomatic ceremonial of the papal court.

The existence of this congregation dates back at least to the early years of the 17th century. Concerning its history prior to that time, there is some disagreement. Most authors hold that the congregation had its origin in the Sacred Congregation of Rites and Ceremonies founded by Sixtus V in his constitution Immensa dei of 1588. Subsequently, either by another decree of Sixtus V or through a gradual evolution, the Congregation of Ceremonies broke off from the parent congregation and assumed a separate existence. Another theory places the beginnings of the congregation in a cardinalatial commission formed by Gregory XIII in 1572 to reform the ceremonies of the papal chapel. This commission was absorbed by the new Congregation of Rites and Ceremonies established by Sixtus V, and then later once again resumed its independent status.

Historically, the congregation was responsible for the regulation of the protocol, formalities and ceremonies that were observed in the papal chapel and court. It regulated the dress and insignia of cardinals, bishops, prelates, and members of the papal court and household. It also organized public and private papal audiences, and handled questions of diplomatic etiquette and protocol. Chief among its diplomatic duties was the organization and direction of the solemn reception by the pope of heads of state, prime ministers, and ambassadors.

By decree dated Aug. 15, 1967, Pope Paul VI reorganized the congregation and gave it a new name: the Prefecture of the Papal Household. Following a subsequent restructuring of March 28, 1968, the Prefecture is now responsible for managing the papal chapel, organizing private and public papal audiences, overseeing and preparing non-liturgical elements of papal ceremonies, coordinating itineraries and other arrangements for papal visits and trips throughout the world, and determining protocol regarding papal audiences, state visits and presentation of diplomatic credentials.

Bibliography: m. lalmant, Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. r. naz, 7 v. (Paris 193565) 3:25860. n. del re, La Curia Romana (2d ed. Rome 1952). p. c. van lierde, The Holy See at Work, tr. j. tucek (New York 1962). j. abbo and j. hannan, The Sacred Canons, 2 v. (2d ed. St. Louis 1960) 1:254.

[r. j. banks/eds.]