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Nobility forms the backbone of the SMOM; more than 40 percent of its 10,000 constituents are related to Europe’s oldest and most powerful Catholic families.
Wealth is a de facto prerequi-site for a knightly candidate, and each must pass through a rigorous screening.
Men and women fly in from all over the world to participate in a cere-mony that has been performed for centuries.
In 1941, the year before the OSS was officially constituted, Donovan forged a close alliance with Father Felix Morlion, founder of a European Catholic intelligence service known as Pro Deo.The grand master of the order, Fra Angelo de Moj ana di Cologna, holds a rank in the church equal to a cardinal and is recognized as a sovereign chief of state by 41 nations with which the SMOM exchanges ambassadors.But the real power of the order lies with the lay mem-bers, who are active on five continents.Ecclesiastical, political and economic informa-tion filters in every day from thousands of priests, bishops and papal nuncios, who report regularly from every corner of the globe to the Office of the Papal Secretariat.So rich was this source of data that shortly after the war, the CIA created a special unit in its counterintelligence section to tap it and monitor developments within the Holy See.