Can a papal flag be displayed in the church sanctuary?

I am participating as a sponser in our parishes RCIA class. Recently we toured a very old Catholic Church with the guidence of the local Priest. In the sanctuary an American flag was displayed on the left side and the Papal flag on the right side. After classs that evening our instructor told us that it was improper to dispay the Papal flag unless the Pope was planning a visit. I have searched the web and have found much about the Papal flag but could not find any strict rules about diplaying it. I asked our instructor where she got her information and she said from a Priest. Is our instructor correct or misinformed?

“There are no rubrics which mandate flying or posting a papal flag in church. Like most flags, they symbolize a country/national identity. The papal flag is actually the symbol of the Vatican City state/country. The pope has a special coat of arms which symbolizes his “theme” or “motto.” These are two different “logos” for two different purposes. In 1825, when much of what we call today as Italy comprised the Papal States, this flag was introduced to symbolize the country/state. In 1929, when the nation of Vatican City was established, this flag was kept to represent the political entity, the government, rather than the Catholic church itself. Its use is governed by the same principles as the flag of any other nation.” For more information - click here.

[Special thanks for this answer go to Thomas Wlebers, “The American Flag in Church?” Rite Magazine, July 2002 Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, pp. 4-7.]
Click here. for source.

Date: 2001-09-26

U.S. Bishops´ Document on Display of Flags in Church

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 26, 2001 ( American flags displayed in Catholic churches should be outside the sanctuary, a U.S. bishops´ committee suggests. But the ultimate decision on placement of flags rests with the local bishop, or, if he chooses, the pastors.

So says the U.S. bishops´ Committee on the Liturgy, which published this statement about the display of flags.

The Display of Flags
in Roman Catholic Churches
in the United States of America

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 [to] 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."
(Note: This also applies to a papal flag)

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