The ceremony was held at St Mary’s Cathedral Chapter Hall.

Ron, Mavis, Byron and Francis were all awarded honours in the Order of St Gregory the Great, while Ron and Mavis were also awarded an upgrade to Commander and Dame of the Order.

The Archbishop of Sydney, His Excellency Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, officiated the investiture.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said the occasion “must be unique”.

It’s rare to have two married couples from the same diocese receive papal honours, let alone two couples from the very same family.

Dr Ron and Mrs Mavis Pirola, who have been married for 60 years, accepted their awards as “a great honour on behalf of all the people we have worked with over the years”.

The upgrade to their papal honours was made in recognition of their extensive contributions to the Church, including 27 years of service to the Pontifical Council for the Family and for their establishment of the Parish and Marriage Resource Centre and the Family Working Group, which was the precursor to the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.

Ron and Mavis made headlines in 2014 when they were one of six couples chosen to address 200 bishops from around the world at the Vatican's Synod on the Family.

On that occasion, the couple openly discussed the importance of sex and sexual attraction for a sustained, loving and spiritual marriage.

They also advocated for the inclusion of homosexuals in the Church, saying it would be a “model of evangelisation” for parishes around the world.

The couple said on Friday that they have been blessed to witness the Holy Spirit’s constant renewal of the Church over the time they have been together.

Their son Dr Byron and his wife Francine, co-producers of the SmartLoving practical courses for engaged and married couples, said they were “very humbled and grateful” to be able to call themselves a knight and dame of the Order of St Gregory.

“The work of promoting and supporting marriage and family life, which has been our life’s work, remains very important to us, so we hope to have many more productive years to live up to the expectations that come with this honour,” Byron said.

The four members of the Pirola family received their honours as exemplars of a renewed spiritual and familial life which operates within the global sphere of the Church.

Archbishop Fisher said that the recipients successfully navigated the tensions between contemplation and action, theory and practice.