The display of national flags in a Catholic Church sanctuary is frowned upon by clergy who believe God takes precedence over state and that the Church's own flags should take prominence. While Vatican City's flag is recognizable as a symbol of Roman Catholicism, each Catholic sect and order has its own flag with significant symbols, such as the five red crosses on the flag of the order of Saint Francis of Assisi.
As the seat of the Pope, Vatican City flies its own flag, and Roman Catholic churches around the world display the flag as well. Its proportions are square, and it's bisected into two stripes, one white and the other the papal yellow. In the center is the coat of arms of the Vatican, two crossed gold keys which, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online, symbolize the Pope's authority over "spiritual and temporal matters."
Eastern Orthodox Flag
The flag of the Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Greek Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Catholic Church, is distinguished by the double-headed eagle. Overlaid on a solid yellow background, the eagle's heads look in opposite directions, symbolizing the once-powerful Byzantine Empire. Today, the eagle symbolizes the power of the Greek Orthodox bishop over his diocese. There are numerous Orthodox Catholic churches around the world, each with its own flag and emblem.
Cross of the Holy Land
Another distinctive flag of the Catholic Church is that of the Franciscan Order of the Holy Land. The flag is white, with a large red cross in the center surrounded by four smaller red crosses in each quadrant. Flown by the monks of the order of Saint Francis of Assisi, the cross is known as the "Jerusalem cross," and during the Middle Ages it decorated the shields of Holy Crusaders. The five crosses also symbolize the five wounds of Christ from his crucifixion.
Catholic missionaries bring their respective flags with them around the world as emblems of their faith and symbols for their new churches. Flags are also displayed within a church in either the vestibule or the inner sanctuary. Various Catholic churches worldwide have different traditions for displaying religious and national flags, but the Roman Catholic Church suggests that national flags be kept out of the inner sanctuary and displayed only in the vestibule.
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