Cross Pro-Ecclesia Et Pontifice
Taken from The Church Visible, by James-Charles Noonan, Jr.

The Cross for the Church and Pontiff, or Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice, is not a pontifical order; it is characterized as a papal award. Founded by Pope Leo XIII on July 17, 1888, it was intended as an award to mark his fiftieth priestly jubilee, not as a long-standing award. The Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice was intended as Leo XIII’s specific mark of honor, but it continues to outlive the founder. In present times, the award is bestowed on persons, both laypersons and clergy, who have given service to the Church. It is also the papal award that had been traditionally bestowed upon women throughout this century, but, as we have seen, this has changed with the award of the Order of St. Gregory to women.

The original award consisted of the effigy of the reigning pontiff on a round medallion in either gold or sliver. The ribbon was of red and white stripes, with a thin yellow stripe imposed upon the white stripe. From the time of Leo XIII until late into the pontificate of Paul VI, the award remained true to this design with the exception of the ribbon, which was altered to half yellow and half white, the heraldic colors of the Holy See. Pope Paul especially loved modern art and altered the insignia of the Greek cross. In the center of the squarelike cross are the images of the apostles Peter and Paul. On the cross bar of the Greek cross is the name of the award perpendicular to each of the apostles’ effigies. At the base of the Cross is the name of the reigning pope in Latin, above the papal arms, in modern stylized fashion. At present, the Cross is awarded in gold or gilt only.

It is important to note that the reigning pope is not bound by the motu propio of his predecessors, although seldom are these reversed in the pontificates that immediately follow. The creations of the new awards or the suppression of existing orders, however, is within the jurisdiction of the reigning pope. As such, a return to the traditional forms of the Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice or a substitution of yet another design is, or course possible in future pontifcates.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has deigned to decree and bestow the symbol of honor of the Exalted Cross – PRO ECCLESIA ET PONTIFICE (for service to the Church and to the Pope)  to Mother Angelica and to the Rev. Deacon R. William Steltemeier instituted for persons distinguished for outstanding service and zeal and, along with this, the faculty to wear this ornament in public.

from the Vatican, July 20, 2009


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