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The Advocates of Saint Peter (Italian: Avvocati di San Pietro, French: Avocats de Saint-Pierre) were a body of jurists, whose stated main object was the defense of the Holy See in its rights and privileges, both in the spiritual and temporal order.
They constituted a society whose statutes were confirmed by a brief of Leo XIII, 5 July 1878.
It bound its members to refute calumnies of enemies of the Church, whether derived from distortions of history, jurisprudence, or dogma, but above all are they to devote their legal knowledge to a defense of the Church's rights before civil tribunals. The society was formed in 1877, on the occasion of the Golden Episcopal Jubilee of Pope Pius IX, and the Advocate Count Cajetan Agnelli dei Malherbi, of Rome, became its first president. The ordinary members were jurists, but the society also enrolled as honorary members distinguished ecclesiastics or laymen who have made it a practice to defend Church interests along the lines of this organization.
Pope Pius IX warmly approved of the undertaking, and desired a wide extension of the society.
The society has spread rapidly over the Catholic world, and branches of the society were found in many countries. Colleges of the Advocates of St. Peter, numbering many hundred members, existed in Italy, England, Austria, France, Spain, Germany, Canada and South America. All of their bodies were affiliated to the directory in Rome.
The body was later transformed into a chivalric order.
- This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.