On Wednesday, October 30, 2019, Domenico Giani, former Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, received the title of Knight of the “Grand Cross of the Pius IX Order” or “Piana,” the highest distinction conferred by the Vatican on laymen, reported the Holy See.
Last June, Giani was awarded the Legion of Honour in the French Embassy to the Holy See.
The decoration was given to him, in Pope Francis’ name, by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, in the presence of the Under-Secretary, Monsignor Edgar Pena Parra; of the Secretary of the Governorate, Monsignor Fernando Vergez Alzaga; of the new Commander of the Gendarmerie Corps, Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, and of the Deputy Commander, Davide Giulietti.
During the ceremony, Cardinal Bertello expressed his gratitude for the work carried out by Domenico Giani for Popes, the Governorate and the State Secretariat; in sum, “for the long years of faithful service to the Church and to the Successor of Peter.”
The Order of Pius IX or ”Piana” was founded by Pope Pius IX in 1847 and reformed in 1939 by Pius XI. It is the “equestrian arm” of the so-called “Pontifical Family” and the title of “Knight” is conferred “parsimoniously.” Although the Knight might not belong to an aristocratic family, he can choose a coat of arms: he is noble and has priority over all the other laymen of the Swiss Guard and of the Vatican Gendarmerie.
It’s an Order recognized by the Italian Republic with the corresponding honors.
Domenico Giani tendered his resignation after leaks from the Vatican Gendarmerie, although he wasn’t personally responsible for them.
On October 15, two days after his resignation, Pope Francis visited Giani’s family in their home in the Vatican, as a sign of esteem and affection. He spoke with Giani’s wife and daughter. Giani’s son, who lives in the United States, was absent. “Once again” the Pope “used clear words about the example” of the Commander, who served three Popes during 20 years.
Last October 1, the Vatican reported the seizure of documents and electronic equipment in the offices of the First Section of the State Secretariat and of the Holy See’s Financial Information Authority. The next day, the Italian press issued a confidential circular with the names and photos of five employees, “suspended as a precautionary measure.” It was a publication that, according to the Holy See, “is highly harmful both to the dignity of the persons involved as well as to the Gendarmerie’s image.”
The Vatican deplored a “media lynching” and reminded of the principle of “the presumption of innocence.” Since then, one of the suspended employees has been absolved of all suspicion.
“Although he had no personal responsibility in the unfolding of the events,” Domenico Giani “put his mandate in the Holy Father’s hands, in a spirit of love and fidelity to the Church and to the Successor of Peter,” stated a press release dated October 14. Giani took this decision “to ensure due serenity to the investigation.”
On accepting his resignation, the Holy Father spoke with Commander Giani and said he was pleased “with his gesture, recognizing it as an expression of freedom and institutional sensibility, which honors him and the service given with humility and discretion towards the Petrine Ministry and the Holy See.” Pope Francis also referred to the Commander’s “indisputable” fidelity and loyalty.