The Padroado (Portuguese) or "patronage" (English), was an arrangement between the Holy See and the kingdom (and later republic) of Portugal, affirmed by a series of treaties, by which the Vatican delegated to the kings of Portugal the administration of the local Churches. The Portuguese Padroado dates back to the beginning of the Portuguese maritime expansion in the mid-1400s and was confirmed by Pope Leo X in 1514. At various times the system was called Padroado Real (Royal patronage), Padroado Ultramarino Português (Portuguese Overseas Patronage) and, since 1911 (following the Portuguese Law on the Separation of Church and State), Padroado Português do Oriente, (Portuguese Patronage of the East). The system was progressively dismantled throughout the 20th century.
The kings ordered the construction of churches; and nominated pastors and bishops. Thus, the structure of the kingdom of Portugal had both religious and political dimensions. Under the Padroado many of the characteristic activities of the Catholic Church were functions of powerful politicians. The Inquisition functioned more to determine secular politics than its genuine religious function. The Padroado was modified over time, but its last vestiges were not suppressed until the Second Vatican Council. For example, until this council, it was the Head of Portuguese State which bestowed the cardinal's red biretta on the Patriarch of Lisbon.
Historically, this system caused some problems, especially in the years leading up to the Second Vatican Council. An example was the island-state of Singapore, where the Portuguese mission, under the Padroado, operated Saint Joseph's Church independently of the Roman Catholic Mission and later the Archdiocese of Singapore. This led to a situation of dual ecclesiastical administration. The situation had to eventually be resolved via a diplomatic settlement between the governments of Portugal and the Holy See. This was in line with the Second Vatican Council, in which the Holy See actively asked governments to give up and annul treaties or privileges similar to the Padroado. St. Joseph's Church eventually came under the administration of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore. Due to issues relating to parish culture and Portuguese missionary activity, however, the church was granted certain privileges and to this day is not officially considered a parish church.
The last official remnant of the Padroado came to an end when control of Macau was ceded to China. Up until then, the Portuguese administration assured pensions for Catholic missionaries in this territory.
- Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, vol. 1: The Century of Discovery (book 1 of 2 books), Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1965, pp. 230–245 (The Portuguese "Padroado" (Patronage) of the East)
- E. Wijeysingha (2006), Going Forth.. The Catholic Church in Singapore 1819-2004, ISBN 981-05-5703-5