Strands of Fading Suns
Universal Church of the Celestial Sun
The Universal Church of the Celestial Sun is largest Church in history with over 2000 years of history. It was formed after the death of the prophet Zebulon by Palamedes Alecto. Within the church are five main groups who vie for power with each other. Beneath them are many minor sects. In some forms the Church is authoritarian and uncompromising in others it is charitable and compassionate.
The Church-sanctioned Obun branch of the Universal Church.
Remnants of prereflective human faiths
Order of the Mother Pancreator
Choral group that uses the power of song to perform miracles.
Church ranks from highest to lowest are Patriarch, Archbishop, Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Canon, and Novitiate.
The Patriarch is supreme head of the Universal Church (female Patriarchs are called Matriarch) and usually Orthodox, rarely Amalthean. The highest ranked bishop on a planet is the archbishop. The archbishops of certain planets have a special status. The highest ranked archbishops of certain groups of planets are called metropolitans; the archbishops of Delphi, Severus, Istakhr, Aragon, and Kish are metropolitans respectively of the Hawkwood, Decados, al-Malik, Hazat, and Lihalan worlds. The archbishops of Artemis, DeMoley, Pyre, Pentateuch, and Velisamil are respectively the official heads of the Church’s Amalthean, Brother Battle, Avestite, Eskatonic, and Obun/Voavenlohjun/Ven Lohji sects. The archbishop of Holy Terra is always Orthodox and serves as the Syneculla, the chief deputy to the Patriarch.
Members of the various sects of mendicant monks or Hesychasts usually can attain a Church rank no higher than priest.
Until the coming of Emperor Alexius, the Patriarch was undisputedly the most powerful individual in the Known Worlds. Still, he wields a tremendous degree of personal power. In addition to the ability to excommunicate individuals or groups and to issue fixed-duration Patriarchal bulls, the Patriarch has the rarely-exercised ability to act as a theological final court of appeals, issuing a ruling on any disputed issue. The Patriarch can call a Holy Synod and has full veto power on any change of Church doctrine originating from a Synod or from lower in the Church hierarchy, and can himself issue decrees changing Church doctrine irreversibly with the approval of the College of Ethicals. Mindful of the possibilities of schism, Patriarchs have almost always ensured the acquiescence of their cardinals before issuing substantive bulls, but they do have a tremendous degree of influence nonetheless. The personal staff of the Patriarch includes a small group of Adepts of Mantius known as the Red Guard- each member of the Red Guard has sworn an oath of absolute loyalty to the Patriarch, and they will perform suicidal actions on behalf of their master at the blink of a Patriarchal eye. In recent years, the Red Guard has become increasingly distant from the rest of the Adepti Templi. In addition to the Red Guard, the Patriarch’s staff includes a rather extensive network of spies who are not formally acknowledged but whose existence is known.
The Patriarch also has the cardinals of the Patriarchal planetary sees (Holy Terra, Stigmata, Nowhere, and de Moley) report directly to him. De Moley is a special case, as the Grand Master of the Adepts of Mantius, the cardinal of De Moley, is also beholden to the Syneculla’s High Protector. The result of this is that the Grand Master does not consult directly with the Patriarch as often as the other Patriarchal cardinals.
Cardinal: A planetary see (powerful cardinals would be metropolitans or have comparable positions in the central Church hierarchy)
Archbishop: An archdiocese (equivalent to a duchy and surrounding lands)
Bishop: A diocese (equivalent to a county and surrounding lands)
Priest: A see (equivalent to a viscounty and surrounding lands)
Deacon: An ecclesia parochial (equivalent to an earldom or marquistae and surrounding lands)
Canon: A parish (a barony)
Novitiate: A lesser parish (a village or other small parish)
Acolyte: A lay attendant to priests.
Protects the temporal interests of the Church. This is the internal and external secret police force of the Church. It is responsible directly to the Syneculla.
The College of Ethicals
The College of Ethicals is a council appointed by the Patriarch intended to act as a check on Patriarchal authority, though it has rarely provided any sort of resistance to the will of the Patriarch and is derided as a rubber-stamp body. The College of Ethicals has the power to approve or reject permanent changes to Church doctrine, and it also coordinates the activities of the lesser bodies in the Church hierarchy. The Inquisitorial Synod, the Penitential Synod, the Curia and all temporary synods beneath the Holy Synod are under the aegis of the College of Ethicals. The College of Ethicals is traditionally a mix of cardinals from Holy Terra and those from Li Halan space, but it is usually quite loyal to the Patriarch.
The Inquisitiorial Synod
The Inquisitorial Synod, responsible for protecting the Church from threats of a spiritual nature, reports to the College of Ethicals. A council largely dominated by members of Temple Avesti, the Synod nonetheless has a significant Orthodox minority, and if it often acts more zealously than the Patriarch might wish, it is still a mainstay of Church power and quite beholden to the rest of the Church. In addition to chasing down heretics, the Inquisitorial Synod also appoints deputies to oversee the Church’s libraries, archives, and reliquaries to ensure that security protocols are in place which keep forbidden lore fully hidden. One of the Inquisition’s duties is also to determine exactly which lore is deemed heretical, and this requires a great deal of reading and occasional theological discussion. Of course, the Inquisiton also licenses a number of pilgrims to purge the Known Worlds of sin as well. The Inquisitorial Synod was founded by the Patriarchal bull On the Protection of the Prophet’s Word, issued by Patriarch Zenobiah II in 4211. It was originally intended to serve as a regulatory body ensuring that the Ten maintained their allegiance to the Universal Church and to serve as a gentler way of regulating technological excesses that the nobility still committed than Temple Avesti threatened. The Synod, under the guidance of its First Speaker, the famous Orthodox cardinal Hadrian Franciscus, issued the Credo Inquisitorum, which laid out its mission in more detail. The Synod, largely a regulatory and administrative body charged with ensuring continuity of religious services and instruction over the Known Worlds, was a success at securing the allegiance of the Ten to the Universal Church, but it did not fully defuse the tensions Temple Avesti was causing.
Investigators of the supernatural and occult.
The Kalinthi are the offcial occult investigators and demon hunters of the Church. They started as an independent occult-obsessed group during the 39th Century by a noble from House Chauki. They were declared an official Church agency by Matriarch Alethea in 4269, and thereafter were associated with certain elements of the Urth Orthodoxy and the Via Anima Hesychast Order. Though Universal Church clergy from any sect can join the Kalinthi, it’s agents are at least 95 percent from the Orthodoxy or Via Anima. Kalinthi agents often travel undercover, and usually have training in theurgy (religious magic).
The Penitential Synod
The Penitential Synod is a semi-permanent body created to oversee the disposition of penance through the Church. While a great deal of the Synod’s time is spent on revising and communicating the guidelines governing penance for the Church hierarchy to follow, the Synod is best known for the psychic penitential abbeys it runs and the Penitent Legions it sponsors. The Synod reports to the College of Ethicals, although there have been past scandals in which individuals appointed by the Synod colluded with members of the Synecullum to employ unauthorized psychic spies.
Also falling under the authority of the College of Ethicals, the Curia is the collective term for the highest rank of the Church hierarchy. The Curia officially includes all of the metropolitans, as well as the cardinals of each of the Patriarchal worlds and each of the autocephalous worlds. Thus, the heads of Sanctuary Aeon, the Eskatonic Order, the Temple Avesti, and the Church of Ven Lohji are all members of the Curia. This gives them the distinction of being curates, though they are still technically cardinals. The Curia is a factious group of priests that does not meet formally except when called to do so by a Holy Synod. However, the approval or at least acquiescence of the majority of the Curia is generally sought by the Patriarch in any attempt to change Church doctrine on a permanent basis. A great deal of the more vicious politicking within the Church takes place within the Curia, as the cardinals all advance the interests of their respective constituencies, often at each other’s expense.
Temporary Synods are gatherings of Church authorities. They are invoked at all levels of the Church hierarchy, from the Holy Synod occasionally called by the Patriarch, to metropolitan synods, planetary synods, and regional synods. All synods beneath the Holy Synod are under the authority of the College of Ethicals, and although the College of Ethicals does not need to approve of every synod that is called beforehand, if the College disapproves of a synod, it cannot be called. Synods are deliberative bodies including a great deal of debate and a fair amount of sub rosa political maneuvering. A synod is always called to address a certain issue, and if a synod comes to a definitive verdict (which happens about 75 percent of the time) that verdict is binding on all bodies over which the synod has authority- a planetary synod can decide on affairs for that planetary see, for example. Any synod besides a Holy Synod can be overturned by the College of Ethicals, but other Church authorities cannot overrule a synod. A metropolitan, for example, could not overturn the ruling of a planetary synod, even one on a planetary see within his metropolitan see, without appealing to the College of Ethicals.
The Syneculla is the Patriarch’s deputy and only member of the Church who can never become Patriarch.
The Liason Superior
One of the more important deputies of the Syneculla is the Liason Superior, concerned with maintaining relations with the various non-Orthodox entities under the rubric of the Universal Church. Representatives of the Amalthean Order, the Temple Avesti, the Eskatonic Order, the Church of Ven Lohji, the various hesychast groups, the Manifest Light, the Swords of Lextius, and other monastic or knightly orders within the Church all officially report to the Liason Superior. The Liason Superior acts more or less as the diplomatic corps of the Patriarch when dealing with all other sects. In the case of groups like the Order of St. Nestor or the Order of St. Alterrus, the Liason Superior’s role is more formal, as most contact and cooperation occurs between those orders and the Inquisitorial Synod directly.
The Liason External
Another important deputy of the Syneculla is the Liason External, who handles relations with all non-Church bodies such as the Empire, the Royal Houses, and the League. The Liason External works very closely with the Syneculla, and many Syneculla have not even bothered to have the additional position of Liason External, seeing to these duties themselves.
The Bursar is the Synecullar deputy responsible for collecting tithe monies on behalf of the Patriarch. The monies flow up through the Church hierarchy and large portions of them are retained at every step along the way, but the Church still receives tremendous amounts of wealth at the highest levels, and it all flows to the Bursar in the end. Needless to say, the Bursar wields a good deal of sub rosa power in the Church, and while pressure from the Syneculla ensures that he uses the money for the good of the Church as a whole, many Bursars have skimmed tiny amounts from the tithes that they are responsible for, enriching themselves to obscene degrees.
The High Protector
The High Protector of the Universal Church reports to the Syneculla, and oversees the Patriarchal Legions, the Patriarchal Fleet, and the Adepts of Mantius. The High Protector has been a powerful Li Halan lord for the past 220 years, with one interlude when a warrior-priest from Holy Terra took the post. The Adepts of Mantius follow their own organization and report, in the end, only to their Grand Master on De Moley, but the Grand Master reports to the High Protector. Some members of the Adepts of Mantius are called upon to leave the order and join the Red Guard or the Kalinthi, but apart from this, all members of the Adepts of Mantius are loyal, through their Grand Master, to the High Protector.
Standing orders mean that ruling regional priests often have the ability to direct Patriarchal forces in the field, but such forces are all under the ultimate authority of the High Protector. Penitential forces are, interestingly, technically under the authority of the Penitential Synod, which is not even under the authority of the Syneculla, but the Penitential Synod always gives complete battlefield authority to the Patriarchal legions, and only handles the discipline of the troops.
The Patriarchal Legions
Each Legion (commanded by a Legatus Legionis) is divided into 5 Cohorts, which are each about half the strength of a duke’s army. A cohort, commanded by a Centurion Superior, is made up of 3 Centuries, which are about equal to the armies counts can field. A century (commanded by a centurion) is made up of 10 maniples. A maniple, commanded by a princeps primus, can field a little more than half the force a viscounty could muster. A maniple is itself divided into 2 or 3 congresses martial, led by a commander. A congress martial, commanded by a lieutenant commander, is about the equal to the force an earl could muster. Congresses martial are themselves broken up into 10 companies. A company is about equal to the forces a baron could muster, and is commanded by a captain. A company is broken up into a variable number of phalanxes, which are led by lieutenants and are 50-100 men strong (divided by 2 for cavalry or 4 for air cavalry). Phalanxes are themselves broken up into squads, which are led by sergeants and are from 10-12 men strong (divided by 2 for cavalry or 4 for air cavalry- cavalry or air cavalry units are always led by at least lieutenants). Sergeants are not officers and do not need to be nobles, but all of the other command positions are officers, and thus must be filled by nobles.
The Order of St. Nestor
Named for an ancient saint who fought and slew a demon in the mists of antiquity, The Order of St. Nestor is a knightly order of demon-hunters. Although it only takes knights of known valor, it is not as secret or selective as bodies such as the Inquisition, the Kalinthi, or the Order of St. Alterrus. It is, however, greatly admired among young and restless nobles, who vie to be proven worthy for membership, and it turns away huge numbers of applicants every Holy Terran new year. The Order sends its members far and wide to let the Pancreator guide their steps in their search for demons. The standards of infernality that members of the Order tend to apply are not extremely selective. Husks, Changed creatures, and hostile animals are all valiantly opposed by Knights of St. Nestor, and on more orthodox worlds such as Ravenna or the Li Halan worlds, people with serious deformities or eccentricities of behavior have been persecuted by these knights. Each Knight of St. Nestor carries a theurgical seal which he can break to deliver to the Order the tidings that he is beset by demons. It is rare that aid arrives swiftly even in the direst cases, but at least authorities are notified.
Use specially developed powers to fight the Symbiots.