American Flag in Church

Can the American flag be displayed in the front of the church off to either side of the altar? A friend of mine says she was told that according to the Canon the flag should not be displayed. Is this true???

I don’t know about the canon law position on this. It’s common practice in our diocese.

An American flag is displayed in all military chapels during all services in the U.S. military. Having been raised in the military, I was rather surprised to discover that most Catholic churches did not display the American flag in the church, though the papal flag is often present. I see nothing wrong with the display of the U.S. flag in American churches. The flag is not representative of ideology or of particular policy, but of the nation. It is not inappropriate to ask God’s blessing and guidance for one’s nation or to recognize one’s nationality. The flag can have a place in the Church, but should never replace the altar as the focus of our prayer and devotion.

glad I am not the only one who can’t sleep
has been answered on AAA, title refers to papal flag, but answer makes the point that neither in canon law nor in rubrics is issue of flags in church addressed at all, leaving it up to national bishops conferences or local ordinary. Apparently the custom in US of displaying American flag arose during WW2 as a means of reminding parishioners to pray for those in service.

I believe that you have to look at what “signs” should be place in the the church. What is the message that is being sent with an American flag or far that sake any nations flag on the side of sanctuary. I can see it in a military chapel, but that to me would be an exceptioon and not the rule.
The sign and signals we want to send are of the sacraments, the word and the eucharist. All other signs and symblols should be subordinate to those of God. Anything that does not point to Him and His devine rule should be avoided.


The U. S. Flag code governs the display of flags in the United States, including inside churches.

It’s on one side outside the chancel, and on the other side inside, but I don’t know how exactly.

Am I right in thinking that no other country does this?

We certainly don’t display the Union Jack in British Catholic Churches, although you’d think that if it was in response to a wish to support the troops during WW2, it would be just as likely.

Thanks for all the flag comments, and I do agree that there should be nothing wrong with displaying the flag in the sanctuary as long as it is to the side and never detracts from the altar and tabernacle.

But a priest told my friend that the Canon strictly prohibits the display. How can I research Canon law to determine the validity of his statement???

from the USCCB site

Surprisingly to many, there are no regulations of any kind governing the display of flags in Roman Catholic Churches. Neither the Code of Canon law, nor the liturgical books of the Roman rite comment on this practice. As a result, the question of whether and how to display the American flag in a Catholic Church is left up to the judgment of the diocesan bishop, who in turn often delegates this to the discretion of the pastor.

The origin of the display of the American flag in many parishes in the United States appears have its origins in the offering of prayers for those who served during the Second World War (1941-1945). At that time, many bishops and pastors provided a book of remembrance near the American flag, requesting prayers for loved ones – especially those serving their country in the armed forces – as a way of keeping before the attention of the faithful the needs of military families. This practice has since been confirmed in many places during the Korean, Viet Nam and Iraqi conflicts.

The Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy has** in the past encouraged pastors not to place the flag within the sanctuary itself, in order to reserve that space for the altar, the ambo, the presidential chair and the tabernacle.** Instead, the suggestion has been made that the American flag be placed outside the sanctuary, or in the vestibule of the Church together with a book of prayer requests. It remains, however, for the diocesan bishop to determine regulations in this matter


According to the Order of Christian Funerals:
“132. Any national flags or the flags or insignia of associations to which the deceased belonged are to be removed from the coffin at the entrance of the church. They may be replaced after the coffin has been taken from the church.”
(The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0.)

It becomes difficult to make sense of this instruction if it is OK to have the national flag displayed in the church.

The Order of Christian Funerals is an official liturgical book. The Latin edition was approved on 15 August 1969. The approved translation became mandatory in the USA on 2 November 1989. ((The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, pages 922-923).

Thanks FAB and John for your informative answers. I believe this definitely can help my friend. God bless you all!:thumbsup:

Agreed… I went to a military chapel for quite a while and it was used by Catholics as well as Protestants (we only had one in use for Sunday services as this was the only one that was close to the housing area that was large enough).
We had the American flag and the Christian flag displayed at all times… The church I now go to does have the same thing, even though it is not a Catholic church… I don’t see nothing wrong with having a flag in the sanctuary… Why should it be a problem?

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