Members of the Order pray for Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa appointed Apostolic
Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy
Sepulchre of Jerusalem, has welcomed the appointment of Father Pierbattista
Pizzaballa as the Apostolic Administrator of the vacant see of the Latin
Patriarchate of Jerusalem and his elevation to the rank of Archbishop. Cardinal
O'Brien assures the accompaniment in prayer of members of the Grand Magisterium,
and of all the Knights and Dames of the world, entrusting his mission to the
intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Palestine.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the Latin
Patriarchate of Jerusalem, presented by His Beatitude Fouad Twal, in accordance
with can. 401 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law and appointed Apostolic Administrator
of the vacant see Rev. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., elevating him
to the dignity of archbishop, assigning him the titular see of Verbe.
Rev. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M. was born in Cologno al Serio, in the
diocese and province of Bergamo, on April 21, 1965. After being accepted into
the minor seminary of the Franciscan Province of Christ the King, Bologna, in
September 1976, on September 5, 1984, he began his novitiate in the monastery of
La Verna. He made his temporary profession in La Verna on September 7, 1985 and
his perpetual profession in Bologna on October 14, 1989.
After the first cycle of philosophical and theological studies, he obtained a
Degree in Theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum in Rome. On January
27, 1990 he was ordained deacon and on September 15, 1990 he was ordained to the
priesthood in Bologna Cathedral by H.E. Cardinal Giacomo Biffi.
He arrived in the Custody of the Holy Land on October 7, 1990 and completed his
postgraduate studies at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem in 1993.
He later served as a professor of Biblical Hebrew at the Franciscan Faculty of
Biblical and Archaeological Sciences in Jerusalem.
He began his service in the Custody on July 2, 1999. On May 9, 2001, he was
appointed Guardian of the convent of Saints Simeon and Anna in Jerusalem. He was
involved in the pastoral care of the Catholic faithful of Hebrew expression and
was appointed Patriarchal Vicar in 2005 until 2008. The General Definitory
elected him Custodian of the Holy Land and Guardian of Mount Zion in May 2004.
On 22 March 2010 he was re-elected. In 2013 his term was postulated for another
three years. His term ended in April 2016.
(Communiqué of the Holy See Press Office June 24, 2016, [original text italian])
* * *
Children of an empty tomb
In his homily during one of the morning Masses that introduced the working
sessions of the last meeting of the Grand Magisterium which took place during
the Easter season, Msgr. Fortunato Frezza summarized the spirituality of the
Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Master of Ceremonies of the Order, Mgsr. Frezza, was inspired by the
readings of the day which recalled the martyrdom of St. Stephen, deacon of the
nascent Church, the persecution of the early Christians and Jesus' discourse on
the Bread of Life (Acts 8:1b- 8 and John 6: 35 - 40). Below, we publish an
excerpt of this spiritual reflection which can illuminate our path of faith and
continue to nourish our prayers in the footsteps of the Risen Lord.
"The Lord's land is one of holy tombs and of bread, bread of eternal life. Is
not the Risen Lord, the Lord of the empty tomb, bread of eternal life? He
repeats: "I am the bread of life." He who eats of this bread will never die and
also his tomb will remain empty forever, because the Risen Lord promised: "I
will raise him up on the last day."
Brothers and sisters, are we not the children of an empty tomb? Even today our
life is clinging to this empty tomb, which has become like an open cupboard,
containing the bread of life. It is the foundation of our faith, because if
Christ is not risen, we are truly the most unfortunate of humanity. The soul of
our Christian witness is the Easter proclamation: Christ is truly risen!”
“We, who are born from an empty tomb, we live for it, and we have committed our
lives to protecting it and protecting those who live next to it, those who like
the apostles remain in Jerusalem and those who are scattered over the land which
is the land the Risen One. Our every action, our oath, our outstretched arms are
the hands of our faith which becomes a diakonia of works. Our generous, silent
oblation is in reality a concrete sign of the faith that cries out proclaiming
the Resurrection; it is the voice of the Apostles and deacons convinced that
Christ is truly risen. We, Knights and Dames, we are the deacons, the servants
of this proclamation".
* * *
Ambassador Alfredo Bastianelli, New Chancellor of the Order
The Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, has
appointed Ambassador Alfredo Bastianelli as Chancellor for a term of four years.
Bastianelli is a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great and a
Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. Born in Rome on
January 26, 1951, he married Fiammetta Fiorentino in 1983, and is father to
three sons: Giovanni Battista, Ascanio and Niccolò.
A graduate in Law, the new Chancellor served the Italian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs for many years, holding positions at the Italian Consulate in Sao Paulo,
Brazil, and at Italian embassies in Canada, Mozambique and Indonesia, in
addition to the Permanent Representation at the European Union. He then served
as Ambassador of his country in Angola, Cyprus and Belgium.
The new Chancellor is multilingual, speaking Italian, English, French and
Portuguese fluently. Alfredo Bastianelli has also been a Gentleman of His
Holiness since 2007. The members of the Order, present throughout the world,
wish him welcome, and join together in prayer, entrusting his new mission to Our
Lady of Palestine.
* * *
Jubilee Pilgrimage of the Holy Sepulchre to Shrine of Our Lady of
By decision of the Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre,
October 15 next the Italian Liutenances will make a Jubilee
pilgrimage to the Shrine of Pompeii. Many are expected to
participate, not only the Italian members of the Order, but also all
the Knights and Dames of the world who wish to attend, knowing that
the various Lieutenancies will have to organize travel and
accommodation for their members. Mass at the altar of the Virgin is
scheduled at 10 am and the recitation of the Rosary will be followed
by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at 4pm, in the chapel
dedicated to Blessed Bartolo Longo, before passage through the
sanctuary’s Holy Door. Blessed Bartolo Longo, who until now was the
only lay member of the Order to be beatified, was defined by St.
John Paul II as a “man of the Virgin”. In his homily at the
beatification, October 26, 1980, the Pope said of him that “for the
sake of Mary, he became a writer, an apostle of the Gospel, a
speaker of the Rosary, founder of the famous sanctuary in spite of
the enormous difficulties; for love of Mary he created charities, he
became a beggar for the children of the poor, he turned Pompeii into
a living citadel of human and Christian goodness; for love of Mary,
he endured tribulations and slander in silence, he underwent a long
Gethsemane, trusting in Providence, ever obedient to the Pope and
the Church”. His human and spiritual path, which is in itself a
message of love, shows us how great the mercy of God is and how
profound the conversion of a heart can be. Every day, in Pompeii,
pilgrims experience the triumph of grace over the ruins of sin,
according to Bartolo Longo. In the recent issue of the Order’s
magazine, Annales, Msgr. Tommaso Caputo, the prelate archbishop and
papal delegate of Pompeii, prior of the “Napoli - Lady of the Rosary”
section of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, told us: “Seeing the
sanctuary and all the works of charity built from scratch, with “a
penny a month”, allows us to touch with our own hands the truth of
God’s message of love, through the mediation of the Virgin, gifted
to Bartolo Longo, not only for himself, but for all of us”.
* * *
The Jubilee in the Holy Land
On Sunday, 13 December, in the Basilica of the Agony at Gethsemane, Msgr. Fouad
Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, opens the Holy Year of Mercy in
Jerusalem. Two other Holy Doors allow pilgrims to live the Jubilee: one opened
in Bethlehem on 24 December, at the Latin Church of St. Catherine – beside the
basilica which was built on the site where Jesus was born – and the other in
Nazareth on 27 December, the Feast of the Holy Family, at the Basilica of the
Annunciation. Other Jubilee doors are dedicated more closely to the local
communities. In particular, with regard to Catholics belonging to the Latin
Rite, Msgr. Twal opens the Holy Door in Gaza on 20 December at the Church of the
Holy Family, after the one in Amman, Jordan, on 12 December at the Church of St.
John the Baptist de la Salle.
* * *
DEATH OF THE GRAND MASTER EMERITUS OF THE ORDER
Cardinal Carlo Furno passed away on 9 December, 2015, the day after the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy, at 94 years of age. Originally from the province of Turin, he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Peru, Lebanon, Brazil and Italy before being appointed Grand Master of the Order,
a position which he held from 21 December, 1995, until 27 June, 2007. He was also Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, where his body will rest.
We entrust the soul of the Grand Master Emeritus to the prayers of the members of the
Order, and we remain spiritually united with him in the communion of saints, especially during this extraordinary
* * *
Cardinal O’Brien New Member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre,
as a member of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on November 6th
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, whose prefect is Cardinal Angelo Amato, is responsible for following and supporting the process that leads to the beatification of Servants of God and to
the canonization of those who are Blessed. Visit the Congregation’s website to find more information: www.causesanti.va.
* * *
Festivities in Honour of Our Lady Queen of Palestine
There could be no dearer patroness to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre than Our Lady Queen of Palestine. Moved by the desire to devote themselves to the service of the land,
where her Son Jesus was born, lived and worked for our redemption, the Knights and Dames of the Order are placed under the protective mantle of His and our Holy Mother.
For this reason, October 25th is a day that is celebrated with joy
and devotion within the various Lieutenancies and Magistral Delegations.
It is also an occasion of great fraternity which allows members of the Order to come together, as happened in Caltanissetta and Pistoia
for example, where, respectively, all of the members from Tuscany and Sicily
gathered to celebrate the anniversary.
This year, many have decided to entrust prayers to Mary in a special way for peace in the Holy Land, which is undergoing situations of tension.
This anniversary also lends itself particularly to promoting an in-depth analysis of the plight of Christians in the Holy Land. The Florence Delegation of the Order, for example, sponsored an event on October
24th entitled “The Holy Land of Christians: addressing the root causes, understanding the present, thinking of the new humanism of tomorrow by means of historical paths, life experiences and plans for the future”,
which was attended by various experts on the topic.
Just before the festivities, Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, Master of Cerimonies of the Order
and renowned biblical scholar, spoke in Spello on October 24th at the presentation of the restoration of the Polyglot Bible of 1645. This ten-volume Bible consists of around 4,000 pages and contains the full text of Sacred Scripture in seven ancient languages arranged in parallel columns on each page.
As often happens, in order to take advantage of celebrating the feast of Our Lady Queen of Palestine in Deir Rafat, the sanctuary
that is dedicated to her, the Lieutenancies have the pleasure of organizing a
pilgrimage to the Holy Land around this date. This year, among the faithful gathered from all over the Holy Land, members of the Lieutenancy of England and Wales
were present, who were taking part in a pilgrimage led by their Lieutenant David Smith.
Icona della Beata Vergine Maria Regina di Palestina dipinta a mano
dalle suore di Beit Gemal
* * *
The members of the Holy Land Commission of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
decorated by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
On Wednesday September 30, the Latin Patriarchate honored the three members of
the Holy Land Commission of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
In presenting them the Patriarchate Gold Cross, Bishop WiIliam Shomali,
Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem, recognized Prof. Thomas McKiernan, Prof.
Bartholomew McGettrick and Dr Heinrich Dickmann, for the many years of
commitment and service for Christians of the Holy Land and the Patriarchate.
“Thanking you is our duty”, Bishop Shomali pointed out.
They are members of the delegation of the Holy Land Commission of the Grand
Magisterium of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, who were accompanied
by Fr. Imad Twal, General Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, during their
recent visit to Israel and Palestine.
The Holy Land Commission of the Grand Magisterium regularly visits project sites
of the Latin Patriarchate in Palestine, Israel and Jordan to evaluate the
viability for project proposals. Once these projects are reviewed, detailed
proposals are submitted to the Grand Magisterium, and after a thorough
assessment, will decide which projects to support.
Follow up visits are conducted and progress reports are completed. Furthermore,
twice a year, the members of this Commission visit projects that are funded by
the Equestrian Order.
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
* * *
The Grand Master’s visits in the Fall
At the beginning of the fall season, the Grand Master will be busy with various
events taking place in different continents. During the first days of September,
Cardinal O’Brien visited the Lieutenancies of Scotland (September 5), Sweden
(September 7), Slovenia (September 12) and Northwestern USA (September 20) for
the ceremonies of investiture.
Moreover, with great joy, His Eminence traveled alongside Pope Francis during
his U.S. visit. In October, the Grand Master celebrates the ceremonies of
investiture in Toulouse (October 3) and Valletta (October 10). Cardinal O’Brien
then is set to participate in the first meeting of the Lieutenancies of Asia and
Oceania, which will be held in Adelaide on October 17 and 18, and which will be
addressed in the next Newsletter.
Confirmed commitments for the final months of the year mainly concern Italy,
with visits to the Lieutenancies in Bari, Cagliari and Rome. Furthermore, he
will be present at the ceremony during which the King and Queen of Belgium will
be awarded with collars. In conclusion, the Grand Master will preside over the
first Investitures that will take place in the Czech Republic in a date to be
* * *
Rabbi Abraham Skorka:
A Year after the Historic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Pope Francis
A Vision of Peace for Jerusalem
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Conciliar
Declaration on the Church’s relationship with non-Christian Religions,
which marked an important moment in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and,
in particular, with the Jewish world. To celebrate this anniversary, the annual conference of the
International Council of Christians and Jews was held in Rome this summer,
and had the joyful opportunity of having an audience with Pope Francis, where he stated that “an
authentic fraternal dialogue has been made possible since the Second Vatican
Council, following the promulgation of the Declaration
Nostra Aetate. This document represents a definitive ‘yes’ to the Jewish roots of
Christianity and an irrevocable ‘no’ to anti-Semitism. In celebrating the
fiftieth anniversary of
Nostra Aetate, we are able to see the rich fruits which it has brought about and to
gratefully appraise Jewish-Catholic dialogue.” Among those who participated in
the conference was the Argentinean Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who was first in line
to greet his friend Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and who later granted us an
More than a year has passed since your historical pilgrimage with Pope Francis
to the Holy Land. Would you like to share with us why you chose to join him on
that trip, and why it was important?
The Holy Land was one of the topics that we often analyzed together, also in our
book. The main question was this: what can we do in order to promote peace in
the Middle East, and specifically in the Holy Land? For me the State of Israel
is a very important theme: a state which has the challenge of showing the
development of Jewish culture in our present day. The Zionist Movement is not
merely a movement that claims and proclaims the re-establishment of the Jews in
the Land of Israel. It is also a cultural movement, which helped to transform
Hebrew into a living language, and that voices concern over the future of the
With regards to “Rome” and “Jerusalem”, there is an historical antagonism
between Rome and Jerusalem which is also mentioned in the Talmud. Rome destroyed
the province of Yehuda during the terrible war between 67 and 70 which ended
with the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. In 73 there was the siege of
Masada and then, from 132 to 135, there was the terrible war was carried out by
Adrianus. What we tried to do through this pilgrimage to the Holy Land was to
transmit a message of peace, and to express our hope that the gap produced by
over 2,000 years of conflict may be filled with sentiments of pureness, love,
thus giving the possibility to see one another as brothers in our human
From another angle, the idea was to go to the place to which I direct my
tefilot (prayers) and to the place where Jesus – who is so special to the
Christian faith – was born, lived, and spread his message. It is a special
common place for us, and when I saw Pope Francis after he was elected, I told
him: Let us go to Israel. This is the place in which our religiosity, our vision
of God, and our connection with God was established. We are the children, the
descendants of the great prophets who elevated their prophecies in Jerusalem.
We had our good friend Omar Abboud with us in order to show that all Abrahamic
religions must embrace each other, forming a circle of spiritual power which,
according to our Holy Scriptures, will bring peace to our world. This is our
challenge and this was the reason for our journey, which was not a trip, but
rather a pilgrimage.
You have spoken about the importance of the place in itself, of Jerusalem, and
also of the global message one should spread. You, Pope Francis and Omar Abboud
you are not originally from the Holy Land, nor are you living there. What do you
think that the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, which has more than 30,000 members
around the world, can do in those places where it is located in order to promote
encounter and peace?
One could define our pilgrimage as a proclamation for peace sent out from the
very place from which Isaiah said: “For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah
[instruction, in the NRSV translation] and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Is 2:3)
What does the Torah mean? Peace! This verse comes from the middle of a
description of a reality of peace in which one people will not lift up sword
against the other, and in which swords will be transformed into plowshares.
We have received this idea, but how can we pragmatise it around the world? Every
Christian community and every Jewish community ought to have interreligious
programs. The first step for these interreligious programs must be an encounter
between Jews and Christians of different denominations, to see and to know each
other, and to analyze themes together. Of course there should not be an analysis
of very sensitive topics at the very beginning, but instead daily problems
should be analyzed from Jewish and Christian points of view, and then studied
together, as Pope Francis suggested in Evangelii Gaudium. This should be
the beginning: to know each other and to work together in order to solve the
problems that affect our common society.
Would you like to conclude by sharing a prayer that you think can be helpful for
sustaining peace in the Holy Land?
All our prayers quote different Bible verses. A few passages from the book of
Isaiah come to mind. In Isaiah Chapter 2 there is the famous image of a
Jerusalem of peace. Peace is what we must ask God for: to bless us (and I mean
Jews, Muslims and Christians) in order to help us accept one another with great
respect, to see one another as brothers. It is then that we will surely be able
to build up a Jerusalem of peace in which all of us will have the possibility to
express the best sentiments, ideas and thoughts which are in each one of us.
The other passage in Isaiah, which strikes me as a tefila, a prayer,
is at the end of Chapter 19, where there appears to come a way that connects
Egypt and Assyria, and then “Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. God
will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and
Israel my inheritance.’” (Is 19:24-25) At that time, I understood, I pray, all
people will have a deep commitment to worship God and it will be a blessing for
the whole world.
The third passage in Isaiah, which is very relevant for me as a prayer, is the
one that says “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”
(Is 56:7). He will bless us, all of us, with greatness to transform all the city
of Jerusalem into God’s house. Not because God is living in this house, but in
order that each person who comes to Jerusalem, no matter what his or her faith
may be, will have the possibility of finding in Jerusalem a real dimension of
spirituality. In this way we will really honor the memory of the prophets of
Israel, the great masters of Israel, Jesus, and Muhammad.
Interview by Elena Dini
* * *
An appeal to pilgrims and focus given to refugees: a hot summer in the Holy Land
The Holy Land is not merely a geographic location. It is much more than that. It is a
place that is very much alive, where you can immerse yourself in the colors and
biblical scents of the scriptures, and it is inhabited by various communities,
including Christians. In a message issued at the end of July, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa,
Custodian of the Holy Land, reported that in recent months, “especially due to
the fear generated by the wars in the Middle East, and the attacks committed by
fundamentalist groups that have caused bloodshed in Western countries as well,
pilgrimages to the Holy Land have undergone a dramatic decline.”
In response to this situation Fr. Pizzaballa says wholeheartedly:
“Let’s not abandon the Holy Land!” and
he gives two valid reasons: the guaranteed security in sanctuaries
and in the areas frequented by pilgrims, and the great need that Christians in the Holy Land
have for “the presence and support of pilgrims who come here
in prayer from all over the world.” A few days after the Custodian spoke these words,
Sister Donatella Lessio, an Elizabethan religious sister who has worked
for years at the service of the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem,
launched a video appeal entitled “Let us go to that land ...
and let’s get involved.” Sister Donatella has also
noticed the decline of pilgrims in the Holy Land. To those who do not come
because they are afraid she says: “There is nothing to fear! Here,
everything is quiet. Here, more than anywhere else, security is not failing.
As Christians, we cannot experience fear, for as St. John says:
The one that carries fear cannot love.”
Jordan has recently received a visit from Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, Secretary
General of the Italian Episcopal Conference, to whom the Holy Father entrusted
“a word of hope” for “those who, oppressed by violence, have been forced to flee
their homes and their land.” In his letter, Pope Francis remembers the local
communities who are committed to helping their brothers in difficulty. To those
communities he says: “You proclaim the resurrection of Christ through sharing
the sorrow and through giving fraternal help to the hundreds of thousands of
refugees; you bow down over the suffering that risks stifling their hope; with
your fraternal service you illuminate the dark moments of existence.” The
program of the Secretary of the CEI, who was received by Msgr. Maroun Lahham,
Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan, included visits to reception centers for refugees
and meetings with them, as well as a shared moment of prayer promoted by Caritas
* * *
“A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People”
A multimedia exhibition entitled “A mutual blessing: Pope John Paul II and the
Jewish people” is open to the public from 29 July to 17 September, 2015,
at the Charlemagne Wing in St. Peter’s Square. The exhibition arrived to Rome after touring the U.S.A., in celebration of the 50th
anniversary of the “Nostra Aetate”, the historic declaration on the relationship
between the Church and non-Christian Religions. The exhibit was created by Dr. James Buchanan, director of the
Brueggeman Center for Dialogue at Xavier University, and Dr. William Madges, professor of theology at St. Joseph’s
As can be seen in the exhibition, Saint John Paul II was a Pope who, due to personal
experience of encounter and friendship with the Jewish people, was able to make important steps on the path that had already
been opened by the conciliar declaration. In addition to the important remembrance of what
happened in the past, the exhibition serves as a door open to the future. The title itself recalls
St. John Paul II’s ever present invitation: “As Christians and Jews,
following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to
the world. This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us,
Christians and Jews, to first be a blessing to one another.”
The exhibit is open free of charge from Monday to Saturday, 9 AM to 6 PM
(Wednesdays from 1 PM to 6 PM).
* * *
Statement of the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA)
From July 6 to July 9, 2015, Bishops from the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Lebanon,
Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Djibouti and Somalia had the annual meeting
of the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions whose president is the
Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal. Below is the communiqué they released at the
end of the meeting.
Our sixty-fifth meeting took place at the Franciscan convent of the Holy Cross
in Nicosia (Cyprus), from July 6 to 9, 2015, with the participation of bishops
coming from the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine,
Israel, Cyprus, Djibouti and Somalia. We met Christian and Muslim religious
leaders at the Maronite Archbishopric and sensed the ecumenical spirit among the
various Christian Churches. We went on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Saint
Barnabas, apostle of Cyprus, and we prayed for an improvement in the relations
between the Turkish and the Greek parts of the island. We paid a visit to the
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostom II.
After a rich exchange about the pastoral situations in our respective countries,
we studied four themes, which were proposed by the program: consecrated life,
the future of the Christian community in the Middle East, the family and the
Jubilee of Mercy.
1. Consecrated life: The religious congregations, the new communities and the ecclesial
movements present in our dioceses carry out much appreciated work, putting their
evangelical charisma, composed of prayer, charity and communion, at the service
of our Churches. While saluting these communities, which continue to work for
peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict, we call on all religious
communities to improve fluency in the local languages, enter into the culture of
the people they want to serve and lovingly integrate even more fully into the
local pastoral plan in order to provide even better service.
2. The future of the Christian community: We, bishops, participate in the sufferings of our people in the areas
where great political instability prevails. More than a year has passed since
the Gaza war and the fall of Mosul as well as five months since the Arab
coalition proclaimed war in Yemen, yet there is no sign or glimmer of hope.
Despite the desperate situation of our communities in Syria and Iraq, we insist
that our future depends on the quality of our faith. Furthermore, we are
confident that interreligious dialogue can help to better coexistence with our
Muslim brothers because there are many people of good will, who reject
radicalism and intolerance and respect the freedom of conscience and religious
Therefore, we reiterate what we wrote in our statement last year:
“No peace without justice as there is no justice without respect for human,
social and religious rights. A true peace requires forgiveness and
reconciliation. Otherwise, the same factors that produced the conflict will
continue to generate more hatred and more wars.”
One cannot kill in the name of God, nor manipulate religion for political or
economic interests, as every human being is entitled to respect regardless of
his religious or ethnic affiliation or his minority status.
3. In view of the forthcoming Synod on the family to be held in Rome
during the month of October, we exchanged ideas about the beauty of the
Christian family, willed by God according to the model of the Holy Family of
Nazareth. We discussed the various challenges to the family in general, and
especially those related to bio-ethics. We need to form couples to be open to
life, the gift of God and the fruit of human love. We brought to mind those
couples that are separated or in crisis. We expect much fruit from the upcoming
Synod and invite our faithful to pray for the Synod Fathers so that the Lord
might enlighten them in giving appropriate responses to the challenges and risks
run by the institution of the family.
4. We thank Pope Francis for having established a Year of Mercy in
order to preach mercy to the whole world, inviting all urgently to conversion
and reconciliation at all levels: individual, family, national and
international. We will make a special effort to fully rediscover and enhance the
beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation and the practice of corporal and
spiritual works of mercy.
The bishops of the CELRA
* * *
New Ruling by Israeli Supreme Court: Green Light to Separation Wall in the Cremisan Valley
Following the publication of our 39th Newsletter at the beginning of July 2015, in which was reported
the Israeli Supreme Court’s resolution in April to oppose the proposed route for a Separation Wall in the Cremisan Valley (p. XVII), after years of litigation, calling upon Israeli military authorities to find alternative routes for the construction of the Wall, we would like to provide you with an update that took place on July 6th. The Supreme Court has
now given the green light to constructing the Wall in the same previously
concerned area, with an alteration to the route that will leave a few hundred meters near the Salesian religious
houses, and the school attached to them, unaffected. The school will continue, therefore, to be accessible to the town of Beit Jala, and the Wall will be built on agricultural land belonging to Palestinian families in the Cremisan Valley.
Source: Agenzia Fides and www.lpj.org
* * *
“Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been
from of old”
Interview with Msgr. Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for
- Your Excellency, what can be expected in Rome during the Holy Year of Mercy in support of the persecuted Christians
in the Middle East?
Pope Francis desired and proclaimed the Jubilee of Mercy so that all might feel close to God's Mercy, especially those who suffer, who are experiencing trials and are in need of consolation. The Pope desires that all people,
through gazing at the face of Jesus, will feel loved and comforted. Among those experiencing trials are, without a doubt, Christians in the Middle East, who
currently live in persecution and face a daily battle in professing their faith.
Particular attention to these Christians and their suffering will not be lacking
over the course of The Holy Year.
- How might the Jubilee of Mercy be lived in a concrete way? For example, while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
is there a particular “way” that you would suggest?
The Holy Father and the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization have provided, and will continue to provide, guidelines for celebrating the Jubilee all over the world.
Various local groups will then take these common guidelines and apply them to
their contexts. The same will be true in the Holy Land, where I am sure that the Custodian of the Holy Land, together with bishops and other leadership, which I think will include the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, will find the best way to celebrate the Holy Year in Jesus’ Land.
- In support of the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis has promoted, will you organize any
interreligious events, particularly with Muslim representatives?
The Year of Mercy will also ensure special attention to ecumenism. In fact on January 25th
there will be a celebration at St. Paul Outside the Walls. Furthermore, special attention
will be given to interreligious dialogue in line with Pope Francis’ message in
Misericordiae vultus: “There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It
relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s
most important attributes. Israel was the first to receive this revelation which
continues in history as the source of an inexhaustible richness meant to be
shared with all mankind. As we have seen, the pages of the Old Testament are
steeped in mercy, because they narrate the works that the Lord performed in
favour of his people at the most trying moments of their history. Among the
privileged names that Islam attributes to the Creator are ‘Merciful and Kind’” (n. 23).
- In your opinion, in what way can the 30,000 members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre around the world participate in and contribute to this Jubilee? What appeal is addressed
As an appeal to the members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, I would like to use Pope Francis’ words at the conclusion of
Misericordiae vultus, which are addressed to the whole Church: “In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear
as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire
of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May
the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently
without end: ‘Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been
from of old’” (Ps 25:6).
* * *
The Joy of the Holy Land and a Renewed Call to Sanctity
The Canonizations of Mariam Baouardy and Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas
St. Peter's Square was filled with many languages and colors on Sunday,
including the colors of the Palestinian flag. The joy of the crowd, and in particular
of the 3,000 pilgrims who came directly from the Holy Land, was tangible. Four saints were canonized,
two of whom were Mariam Baouardy and Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, daughters of the Holy Land and the first two Palestinian saints. Founders of the
the Discalced Carmelites of Bethlehem and of the Congregation of the Rosary
Sisters, the two saints lived their call to holiness from the second half of the 19th century (Mariam Baouardy died while she was very young in 1878) until the beginning of the 20th century (Marie
Alphonsine Danil Ghattas died in 1927).
Also present in the square was President Mahmoud Abbas, who had met with Pope Francis the previous day. During their meeting, as reported by an official, “great
satisfaction was expresed regarding the agreement reached with regard to the
text for an Accord between the Parties, about certain essential aspects of the
life and activities of the Catholic Church in Palestine. The Accord will be
signed in the near future.”
During his homily, the Holy Father wanted first and foremost to draw inspiration from the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which the Church elects the one appointed by God to take Judas’ place among the Apostles. The importance of witness is at the heart of the Christian experience, and the saints show us the way: “We
too, today, base our faith in the risen Lord on the witness of the Apostles,
which has come down to us through the mission of the Church. Our faith is firmly
linked to their testimony, as to an unbroken chain which spans the centuries,
made up not only by the successors of the Apostles, but also by succeeding
generations of Christians.”
Speaking about the saints, Pope Francis recalled Mariam Baouardy’s “docility to the Holy Spirit”,
which “made her a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world.” He
went on to say that Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas “understood clearly what it
means to radiate the love of God in the apostolate, and to be a witness to
meekness and unity. She shows us the importance of becoming responsible for one
another, of living lives of service one to another.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily by calling each one of us into question on this day of celebration:
“Their luminous example [that of the four saints] challenges us in our lives as
Christians: How do I bear witness to the risen Christ? This is a question that
we must ask ourselves. How do I abide in Him? How do I remain in His love? Am I
capable of “sowing” in my family, in my workplace and in my community, the seed
of that unity which He has bestowed upon us by giving us a share in the life of
What does it mean today, therefore, to be children of the Holy Land, and what spiritual fruit can this happy event bring forth to Palestinian Christians and the whole Christian community?
On Saturday, May 16th, an event held at the Basilica of St. Sabina
seems to give an answer to this question. People had been gathered since 4
p.m. at the church, for a prayer vigil that was packed with people in celebration. With one hand the faithful waved the Vatican flag, and
with the other they waved that of Palestine. The delegation led by the
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, included Melkite and Maronite Christians who were not only from the Patriarchate’s territory, but also from Lebanon, the Gulf countries and
other parts of the Middle East.
Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar to Jordan of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, before entering the prayer vigil, said in all earnestness: “These two saints teach us that the last word is never suffering,
it is never abandonment, it is not the cross but instead the glory, the resurrection and the light. Calvary is not the last word but the gateway to a better life.”
He continued, speaking about the fruit that is brought forth by these two saints today:
“Young people will be inspired and they will see that there is hope for the Holy Land.”
Sister Rita Tavitian, a young Rosary Sister, said that “Mariam Baouardy should have been canonized
earlier on, but it is no coincidence that her canonization will take place tomorrow with that of Marie Alphonsine Ghattas. Both
of them have an important message of peace for the world. They tell us that each one of us can become a saint: that is our vocation.”
On a personal level, Sister Rita felt ever so strongly that it was no coincidence that the canonizations of these two holy Palestinians occurred on the same day.
Her own sister is a Carmelite and she too was present in Rome for the happy event.For the two sisters, it was an opportunity to see each other again for the first time in four years.
Also present in the crowd were those who distributed flags and liturgy booklets. Among them is Ibrahim,
who looks very young but is already a doctor living and working near Ramallah. He shares that he is “proud that there are two saints coming from Jesus’ land,
and that this is a message for the whole world: our land is still alive.” When I ask him what the future has in store for him,
he replies: “I’m studying German because I want to specialize in my work, but I want to continue to work for my people and
to help them.”
In the Church there are also Italian and French people who, for various reasons, are linked to the figures of these two saints. Among them
are members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, an Order that was created to support the Holy Land, which welcomes the two new saints and friends of the Holy Land. Sitting in one pew is Giovanni, a doctor who works in the province of Syracuse. He was present on Saturday for the prayer vigil because, though indirectly, he too was “touched” by St. Mariam Baouardy’s story. In fact, John was a doctor in the hospital where a baby was miraculously cured through the intercession of Mariam of Jesus Crucified (the name
which Mariam took upon entering the Carmelites).
* * *
What is the Message of the First Two Modern Palestinian Saints?
Interview with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal
Your Beatitude, you will be in Rome on May 17th for the canonization
of two Palestinian nuns, and you have invited the President of the Palestinian
State to come with you. What does this event of the universal Church represent
for the inhabitants of the Holy Land in this moment of history?
The canonization of these two Palestinian saints is a spiritual highpoint for
the inhabitants of the Holy Land. In the midst of all our difficulties, Mariam
and Marie-Alphonsine are a light on our path, an invitation not to be
discouraged and to keep our eyes fixed on our goal and our shared vocation as
Christians: holiness. If today the Holy Land, so torn by violence and divisions,
sometimes seems disfigured, our two saints come to restore its sanctity. It is
as if Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine, by their example, were saying to us, “Yes,
the Holy Land can be fruitful, and it can bear fruits of holiness.” Holiness is
still possible, even in an extremely difficult context.
Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine did not experience the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
in their life on earth, but they also lived in troubled times and in extreme
poverty. Mariam, who did not receive education, was actually illiterate. Yet,
both of them, in perseverance, patience, and humility, loved God and their
brethren, through charity and sacrifice, to the point of becoming saints.
What is the great message of these two new saints, Mariam Bawardi and Marie-Alphonsine—to
whom you have just devoted a pastoral letter—, for today’s world?
It is a message of hope and love, a message of encouragement to holiness through
humility and simplicity. Mariam referred to herself as “the little nothing” of
Jesus Crucified. Marie-Alphonsine also lived in the greatest humility and was
sometimes persecuted, while the sisters who lived with her ignored until the end
that she was the foundress of her community, the Rosary Sisters of Jerusalem.
The message of both is that we should live in God's presence, relying on Him for
everything, with full confidence, in the midst of even the greatest
difficulties. Marie Alphonsine, like Mariam, received everything from God. The
Blessed Virgin showed her the plans of the church dedicated to Our Lady of the
Rosary in Jerusalem. Likewise, the Holy Spirit showed Mariam where to found the
Carmel of Bethlehem. Both listened to God in the smallest details of their
lives. So, I would say that their great message is that holiness is accessible
to all, holiness as a loving and intimate relationship with God.
Now, the fact that Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine, the first modern Palestinian
saints, are both Arabs is a sign of hope for Palestine, for the entire Holy Land
and the Middle East: holiness is always possible, even in a war-torn region. May
a generation of saints follow them!
What do you expect from the meeting with Pope Francis, and, more largely, what
is the pilgrimage program of the delegation that you will lead on this occasion?
The meeting with the Holy Father, in the extraordinary context of these
canonizations, will be a time of great joy for us. I am sure that it will
rekindle the hope of our faithful in the Middle East and encourage them to
remain firm in the faith and keep their eyes fixed on heaven, especially in
these difficult times that Christians are experiencing there. Mariam and
Marie-Alphonsine are a consolation from Heaven. We have seen this year that Pope
Francis constantly looks towards our region. He has repeatedly deplored the
unprecedented atrocities against Christians and minorities in the Middle East,
expressing his deep concern, and multiplied the initiatives: the meeting, in the
Vatican, with the apostolic nuncios to Egypt, the Holy Land, Jordan, Iraq, Iran,
Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, from 2 to 4 October 2014; the Ordinary Consistory on
the Middle East, on 20 October 2014; the Letter to the Christians of the Middle
East, for Christmas, etc.
Marie-Alphonsine and Mariam are both daughters of the Christian East, and I
believe that their canonization in this searing context is also a call from the
Pope to prayer, which alone can miraculously help our region to recover. We now
have two new saints to intercede for Peace. Their search for wisdom and their
divine message represent a model of perfection for Christians as well as for
Jews and Muslims. Both have Mary, Miriam, as their first name; and this name,
common to our three traditions, is also a sign for our time, indicating that
they can speak to all three without distinction.
Interview by François Vayne
* * *
Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin,
Archbishop of Lyon and
Primate of the Gauls
Mercy Is the Great Marian Message for an Authentic
- Eminence, you were the guest of honor at the Muslim-Christian Marian
Celebration on 25 March, in Lebanon, on the Feast of the Annunciation. What do
you retain in your heart from this rich and promising event, and why is Mary a
bridge of fellowship with our Muslim brothers?
- This truly is an exceptional encounter! For years, I heard about it; but I had
the honor of being invited to participate in 2015 as a result of contacts made
last year in Iraq and, especially, thanks to the twinning between Lyon and
Mosul. We must first recall the context. Lebanon, which was war-torn for so
long, remains at the heart of a region in a severely destabilized world. Now,
this exemplary event of brotherhood and devotion in honor of the Virgin Mary
takes place each year in the very land where Jesus walked. We were greatly
surprised to see that, after just a few years, Lebanon decided to make 25 March
a national holiday, precisely because of this gathering! I was able to measure
how much the Muslims too are attached to Mary, perceiving her great sanctity and
her unique position in the history of humanity. I appreciated the fact that
there was no syncretism at this encounter. One could sense that all spoke out
freely, expressing their prayers with confidence, without trying to erase the
irreducible differences between the Christian faith and the Muslim faith. The
alternation of speaking, songs and sketches allowed the different expressions to
voice the same attachment, a common admiration for the woman who gave us Jesus.
On the following day, 26 March, we were the guests of the Tripoli Mufti, who
welcomed us with great delicacy. At the end of the meal, in a toast, he said,
“I'll let my heart speak. I love you, my Christian brothers, I love you ... like
the Virgin Mary loves you.” You can imagine our embarrassment and our joy!
- Do you think that this common Marian celebration could be internationalized
and become a symbolic day of spiritual friendship between Christians and
Muslims, especially in France and Europe? In your view, how can the Order of the
Holy Sepulchre, to which you belong, contribute more largely to this prophetic
radiance of the Annunciation?
The initiative is exemplary, but that does not mean that it can be imitated
everywhere. Since the beginning, the celebration has been held in the Jesuit
college of Jamhour, but the organizers are now trying to find another place, so
that it does not always take place in a church or under the supervision of a
religious community. Apparently, next year’s encounter will be at the Grand
Mosque in Beirut. Therefore, an effort is being made to find the right solution,
so that this intuition can be materialized in other places, with the same grace.
It seems important to me to say that, apart from the final prayer recited by
everyone, the participants do not pray together, but they gather to celebrate
Mary. This is not a witness of Christians against Muslims, or vice-versa; on the
contrary, we see Christians and Muslims assembled to pay tribute to the woman,
to whom all look as the “All-Holy One.” The echoes I received from Our Lady of
Longpont, in the Diocese of Evry-Corbeil-Essonne, are very positive and show
that there is strong expectation.
- As the Jubilee of Mercy approaches, what do you intend to propose, so that
Muslims may be involved in this Holy Year, in accordance with their religious
tradition, since for them God is above all the Exceedingly Merciful?
- This was precisely one of the main points of my intervention, on 25 March, in
which I commented the Magnificat, whose central phrase is “He has mercy
on those who fear himin every generation.” In my opinion, the Virgin Mary thus
sums up the entire Biblical message. God’s mercy is the reason for the election
of the Jewish people, chosen to be the witness and relay of this fountain of
love for all nations. We Christians are heirs of this mission, since baptism has
allowed us to receive this “dignity of Israel.” As for the Muslims, as soon as
they pronounce God’s name, they add the titles “Exceedingly Merciful” and
“All-Merciful.” Mercy is both the source and the end of our history. It is this
great message developed by Mary in the Magnificat, when the canticle
continues with the description of how, since Abraham, God’s mercy extends over
His people. With the national and international conferences of Mercy organized
since the death of John Paul II, we want to express our conviction that genuine
dialogue, true peace and a bridge between our different religious “houses” can
be built on this reality. I rejoiced when they told me that Pope Francis had
announced this kind of jubilee year!
Interview by François Vayne,
Director of Communications of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Vatican).
The text of the intervention with Cardinal Barbarin, in Jamhour, 25 March 2015
* * *
“We want to build bridges in the Holy Land”
“The Irish Catholic” recently published an article-interview with the Grand
Master of the Order, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien by Mary O’Donnell. Here you can find
an extract of that article.
Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy
Sepulchre of Jerusalem, knows first-hand the suffering, poverty and injustices
experienced by the diminishing Christian community in the Middle East. Since
appointed by Pope Benedict XVI three years ago to lead the order in the support
and protection of Christians in the Holy Land, the 75-year-old American has
witnessed the strong faith of those suffering persecution in the land where
Highlighting the very important role of prayer, the cardinal referred to the
example of Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land and his invitation to
the Palestinian and Israeli Presidents, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, to join
him at the Vatican “in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace”. The
persecution in the land of Christianity’s origin has reduced the number of
Christians to around 160,000 – almost one-tenth the numbers of 60 years ago. […]
As Grand Master, Cardinal O’Brien explained that his role was to ensure the
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem had what he needed to support the 45 schools, two
universities, 60 parishes and many social welfare centres in the Patriarchate.
“Our presence there shows our desire to build bridges not walls in the Holy
Land,” he said, adding: “It is very important that the Church remains there and
that we help encourage Christians to stay through finding work for them and
employing them.” Describing it as “a very hard life”, he remarked: “We have to
identify with them and let them know we support them, and our 30,000 members do
that through programmes of education and through generous donations.” […]
The solution to the conflict in the Holy Land “is not a short term one”,
Cardinal O’Brien said, adding: “Hearts have to change. Christ needs to be at the
core of everything, bringing people of all faiths together again.”
The University of Bethlehem, which was established in 1973 at the request of
Pope Paul VI and managed by the De La Salle Brothers, provides courses for
students of all faiths, with over half being Muslim. “While they are Muslim,
they are very respectful of our faith,” said Cardinal O’Brien, adding that many
of them go into public service and work for the Palestinian government. In
considering the contribution of this building of respect towards a peaceful
future, he believes that it “far outweighs the virtues of what any other
powerful institution is doing”.
The full article may be read at
* * *
Patriarch Twal’s letter for the canonization of the two Palestinian nuns
On the occasion of the canonization of Blessed Marie-Alphonsine and Blessed Mary
of Jesus Crucified, which will take place on May 17, His Beatitude Fouad Twal,
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote a pastoral letter to all the faithful in the
diocese and the entire world that you may read in its integral version on the website of the Latin Patriarchate.
* * *
A New Commission for the American University of Madaba (Jordan)
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal gladly accepted the
initiative of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, that established an ad
hoc Commission, in order to assure the optimum development of the American
University of Madaba-Jordan and its full contribution to society in the coming
The Commission will have full autonomy to accomplish its tasks and in respect of
the Jordanian laws. It will work in full collaboration with the Latin
Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the promoter of the project and owner of the
university, and will be reporting directly to the Secretary of State.
Professor Agostino Borromeo, Governor General of the Equestrian Order of the
Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, has been invited to form this Commission and to
coordinate its work. The Commission formally received its mandate from the
Secretary of State, started its work in November 2014, and visited Jordan on
December 16-19, 2014.
The Commission has identified its work in these three main areas:
the financial stability, viability and probity of the University,
the governance and administrative structures of the University,
the academic planning of the University.
To accomplish these, the Commission created a local Committee of Administration,
presided by Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan, to monitor
and coordinate the work of the University until July 2015, in which time, a
permanent set of arrangements will be in place. Further planning will also be
taking place to ensure the academic development of the University.
Jerusalem, January 15, 2015
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
* * *
Patriarch of Jerusalem and Grand Prior of the Order Mgr. Fouad Twal makes an urgent appeal to dioceses around the world
Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, hosted a reception on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady Queen of Palestine,
the Patroness of the Order, which took place on 22 October in Rome. On that occasion, Mgr. Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, had the opportunity to share some thoughts on the situation in the Holy Land and, in particular,
on the Christian community.
Speaking with Anaïs Feuga from French Radio and
Romilda Ferrauto from Vatican Radio, the Patriarch recounted the proposal
that was put forward during the Consistory on the Middle East, called by Pope Francis on 20 October, which saw the first time participation of the
On this occasion, Mgr. Twal invited dioceses around the world to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land by helping young couples
to buy homes in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
For further details the
interview is available in French.
* * *
The Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Queen of Palestine, Patroness of the Order
His Eminence Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of
the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, has pleasure in hosting a Reception on 22 October on the occasion of the Feast of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, Queen of Palestine, Patroness of the Order.
In all Lieutenancies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Feast of
the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Palestine is, in fact, celebrated with joy
around 25 October – the exact date of the liturgical memorial.
It was the Patriarch Luigi Barlassina (1920-1947), on the occasion of the solemn
entrance into the Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on 15 July 1920, and
the consecration of the diocese to Mary, who invoked the title of "Queen of
Palestine” for the first time.
This name clearly has never had any political connotations, as the entire region
- at that time under the British Mandate - was called Palestine. The desire of
Monsignor Luigi Barlassina was to put under the maternal protection of Mary the land that saw her birth, and which at that moment, at the end of the First World War, was experiencing
an extremely difficult historical period as it had been the subject of a dispute
between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain.
In 1927, at Deir Rafat, a town between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv where there was
already a Christian community, Monsignor Luigi Barlassina had the idea of
erecting a shrine in honour of Our Lady Queen of Palestine, and in 1933 the
title of "Queen of Palestine” was officially recognized by the Congregation of
The special relationship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Palestine, with
the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre dates back to the pontificate of John
Paul II. In 1983, 50 years after the institution of the Feast, St. John Paul II
- addressing the Knights and Dames of the Lieutenancies of Northern and Central
Italy - urged them to be witnesses of Christ in everyday life and to continue
the work of the Order in the Holy Land under the protection of the Blessed
Ten years later, in 1993, the then Grand Master of the Order, Cardinal Giuseppe
Caprio, asked St. John Paul II to declare the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of
Palestine, to be the Patroness of the Order. The Holy Father replied on 21
January 1994 by a decree granting the request.
Today the Little Sisters of Bethlehem serve in the sanctuary, carrying out a
project of prayer, care and support for young people in difficulty. Each year
the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Palestine is celebrated at Deir
Rafat by pilgrims from all over the diocese and beyond. In 2012, the Assembly
of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land together decided to officially open the
Year of Faith at the Shrine of Deir Rafat on the occasion of this Feast.
* * *
Spring meeting of the Grand Magisterium
The spring meeting of the Grand Magisterium of the Equestrian Order of the Holy
Sepulchre of Jerusalem began with participation at Mass celebrated in the church
of Santa Maria in the Via Lata, "the Lenten station" of 8 April. The day
providentially coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Grand Master, Cardinal
Edwin O'Brien. The members of the Grand Magisterium, on this occasion, were able
to participate with other pilgrims in an ancient tradition which consists of
venerating the memory of the martyrs with a Mass celebrated daily in a different
The meeting was then held in a large hall of the Pontifical Council for Culture,
focusing on the financial management of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and
the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as scheduled projects supported by the
Order in the Holy Land for 2014.
In his introduction, the Grand Master stressed the need for an intensification
of the spiritual life of the Knights and Dames, encouraging the Grand Priors to
assume fully their roles in the Lieutenancies in this respect. "Let us not be
overwhelmed with administrative matters, our goal is spiritual" he repeated,
referring to his many trips undertaken to highlight this dimension of commitment
in the Order, which will be reaffirmed in the new statutes.
After thanking the members of the Grand Magisterium who had completed their
terms, and welcoming those who were called to replace them (see the article in
our Newsletter 34 on Appointments), the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem,
Archbishop Fouad Twal, described the current tense situation in the Holy Land,
rejoicing nevertheless at the audience granted by the Pope, on the previous day,
to the King of Jordan, the protector of the Christian minority, in the context
of the preparation of the forthcoming Papal visit. The Financial Statement of
the Patriarchy showed no deficit in terms of management institutions, parishes,
schools and seminars, due to the exceptionally high contributions of the Order
of the Holy Sepulchre, in particular against the contingency fund for teachers
"in the name of respect for workers' rights” the Governor General, Agostino
Borromeo, specified. However, the deficit remains very disquieting with regard
to the new American University of Madaba (AUM), which opened last May. Solutions
will be considered as part of a Commission in which the Order may participate,
although it has no obligation or liability in this worthy initiative of
As regards the accounts of the Grand Magisterium, it appears that even though
the resources have decreased slightly over the year, more than 10 million euros
have nonetheless been sent to the Holy Land in 2013. Financial reserves have
helped to honour commitments. The discussion continued around specific projects
of the Order in 2014, presented by Thomas McKiernan the new President of the
Commission for the Holy Land, returning from a field trip. "Of all the projects
we support - schools, parishes, convents - we can be especially proud of the
school in Rameh, the daycare centre in Bir Zeit, and the Aqaba church" said the
Chairman of the Commission, by way of summary.
In his speech the Chancellor Ivan Rebernick particularly highlighted the
importance of communication in the Order, to keep members abreast of projects by
means of the Annals, the Newsletter and the website of the Grand Magisterium, of
which there will be a review of the headings for easier reading. Finally,
announcing the definitive version of the new statutes, Bishop Robert Stern, the
rapporteur of the committee, which had already met four times, recalled that
"good rules are liberating and invigorating". The final text highlighting
collegiality and subsidiarity should be submitted soon for the validation of the
Grand Master, and subsequently for the Pope's approval.
* * *
Vatican Radio : New challenges for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
The haemorrhage of Christians from the Holy Land is a profound worry for the Catholic
Church. An Equestrian Order is working discretely to curb this phenomenon. The
origins of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem date from as far back as
the first crusade. It was radically reformed in 1847 by Pope Pius IX. Today, it is an international Association of the
Faithful under the patronage of the Holy See and is financed by private
donations. Its main mission is to support the Catholic Church and the Christian
communities in the Holy Land.
The Order today is comprised of some 30 000 members, mainly lay people, in
thirty-five different countries. It offers support to the religious works and
the religious, charitable, cultural and social institutions of the Catholic
Church in the Holy Land, in particular those under the responsibility of the
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza and
However times change and new challenges arise. The Governor General of the
Order, Count Agostino Borromeo, agreed to an interview with Vatican Radio in the
prestigious precincts of the Palace della Rovere, the headquarters of the Order
near the Vatican, to speak of this. This interview was conducted by Romilda
In what way is the Christian Community in the Holy Land evolving?
In Jordan, on the Red Sea, we have built a church from scratch. We needed to
build this church because, paradoxically, the Christian community is increasing
in number. This is due to the immigration of Catholics from outside the Holy
Land: in particular from the Philippines and the region of Kerala in India.
Aqaba is a tourist centre on the Red Sea. Many of those who work in the hotels
come from the Philippines or India. As a result of this, what was once a small
community of 150 Christians has now grown to 2000 members. However 1850 of these
are not of Jordanian origin but are, nonetheless, Christians who attend Church.
Immigration also exists in Israel and is generating a new phenomenon. The
children of immigrants from the Philippines attend Israeli schools.
Consequently, the second generation speaks Hebrew and not Arabic. We have a
growing community of Hebrew-speaking Catholics which needs pastoral care and
liturgical celebrations in Hebrew rather than Arabic. As a result, we are
helping the Hebrew –speaking Catholic community in Tel Aviv to build a church
for their use.
What are the main focus areas to which you direct your aid to Christians in
the Holy Land?
The help which we give is varied and depends on specific needs. Catholics in the
Holy Land represent approximately 1.5% of the population. Our principle is that
when one is part of a minority, one should stand out in society through
excellence. Consequently, we are mainly concerned with education, either at
professional or university level. We concentrate our efforts on the Catholic
schooling system, mainly that of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, also on
the University of Bethlehem which is a Catholic university, and on professional
training schools. There is also a very important centre in Bethlehem which is
run by the Salesian Order.
Broadly speaking, are there more specific priorities at this time?
In the past, our aid was mainly directed towards Catholic institutions. However,
we are now more and more aware that there is a problem which goes well beyond
the life of Catholic institutions: it is the problem of migration of peoples.
Christians who are in a difficult situation with unemployment, a threat of
violence and different types of tension, tend to emigrate. We therefore also try
to create opportunities which may encourage families, and especially young
people, to stay. Consequently, we are gradually trying to develop a micro-credit
system. We are also studying a system of micro-health insurance which would
enable all Christians to benefit from a health insurance scheme with a very low
Can you remind us what the principal vocation and the principal mission of the
Order is, and how one becomes a member?
From a canonical point of view, the Order is a public association of the
Faithful. The first goal for anyone who wishes to become a member is the wish to
develop one’s own spiritual life. From this primary spiritual commitment comes
the second goal which is to assist Christians in the Holy Land. This is a
specific mandate which we have received from the Holy See, since the Order is a
Pontifical institution. What is important is the motivation of the member of the
Order. For this reason I think that witnessing is important since we must first
give it in the country in which we live. Then, there is also a wider testimony
of brotherhood and universal values which we give in the Holy Land.
In a few months, in May, Pope Francis will visit the Holy Land. This is a much
anticipated visit. What are the Order’s expectations in relation to the visit of
the Holy Father, and how is it preparing spiritually, and in practical terms,
for this occasion?
It is difficult for me to make plans since we do not yet know the details
of the programme or the intentions of the Holy Father. However, we have a precedent in the
previous apostolic pilgrimage of Benedict XVI. On that occasion, the Order
assisted in the organization of the visit, including giving practical
assistance. We also accompanied the Pope.
This visit of Pope Francis is very important as it takes place on the fiftieth
anniversary of the meeting between Paul VI and Athënagoras, the Ecumenical
Patriarch of Constantinople. I therefore believe that this visit will have
ecumenical repercussions, especially if we consider that in speaking of the Holy
Land, we must take into account that there are also non-Catholic Christian
churches, which have been there for centuries. Therefore, if there could be a
further improvement in the dialogue between the churches – there is already a
rich dialogue – I think this could be an important fruit.
Another consideration is that every Papal visit to the Holy Land focuses the
attention of the entire world on the problems of Christians and their difficult
living conditions. This could possibly help resolve some of the existing
* * *
Let us pray for the visit of Francis to the Holy Land
The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land (Amman, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem) will take
place from 24 to 26 May 2014.He will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting of Pope Paul VI
with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras in Jerusalem,
marking a milestone in the long march towards Christian unity, especially
between Catholics and Orthodox, painfully divided since the Great Schism of
It is precisely at the Holy Sepulchre that a prayer meeting will take place with
all the representatives of the Christian Churches of Jerusalem, in the presence
of Francis and Bartholomew 1, the current Patriarch of Constantinople.
All members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem are
therefore invited to join forces spiritually during the preparation of this
event which will be "a pilgrimage of prayer" as Francis stated during the
Angelus, on 5 January in Saint Peter's Square.
* * *
Canonisation of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II
The Prefecture of the Papal Household communicates that for the canonisation of
Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II on Sunday 27 April 2014,
participation is open to all those able to find space in St. Peter's Square,
Piazza Pio XII and Via della Conciliazione, without any need for tickets.
As on other occasions, the faithful are warned against ticket touts or requests
for money by agencies or tour operators in order to obtain tickets.
Attendees are also reminded that the tickets to participate in audiences or
celebrations presided by the Holy Father are entirely free.
* * *
Grand Magisterium Meeting Winter Session
On 3 - 4 December 2013 the winter session of the Grand Magisterium of the Order
of the Holy Sepulchre is going on. This is one of the two major events that are
taking place at the Order every year and is presided over by the Grand Master
Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien with the participation of the Grand Prior of the
Order, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, the Lieutenant General Giuseppe
Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, the Governor General Agostino Borromeo
and about thirty more members and collaborators in charge of financial
management and communications.
In his presentation of the works, the Grand Master recalled the recent important
events, like the quinquennial Consulta during which the Statutes of the Order
were reviewed and the international Pilgrimage on theYear of Faith marked by an
Audience with Pope Francis, and his own recent trip to Australia and New
Zealand. He insisted on the importance of encouraging the membership of young
people into the Order and the active presence of the Dames, who are present
already in the Grand Magisterium and as leaders of some Lieutenancies, to become
members of the Oder’s directive bodies.
The Patriarch thanked “the Order’s big international family” (approximately
30,000 knights and dames all over 35 different nations) for their continued
support to the Holy Land, recalling the various and important ecclesial events
during the last two months, many of which he personally attended, like the
meeting of the oriental Patriarchs with the Holy Father in Rome.
The Governor General expressed his congratulations on the good results achieved
by the Latin Patriarchate in various fields, especially pastoral and
educational, even through the Order’s financial support: the money allocated
by the Order on behalf of the Patriarchate during 2013 to accomplish projects
and to take care of institutional and educational expenses, had never reached
such an amount before.
* * *
Grand Master of the Order on a trip to Australia
From 7 to 29 November 2013, His Eminence Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of
the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, was on an official visit to the vast Australian
continent and New Zealand, where there are approximately 450 Knights and Dames
of the Order.
Important meetings were scheduled in the five local Lieutenancies of the Order.
On 7 November in St. Patrick’s Cathedral he presided over the investiture of
members the Order of New Zealand nationality, this country being attached to the
New South Wales Lieutenancy of the Order.
On 10 November in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, he presided
over another investiture ceremony held at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.
On 13 November he presided over a further investiture ceremony at St. Stephen’s
Cathedral in Brisbane, in Queensland, the second largest State in the whole
country. Continuing this important journey, the Grand Master also presided over
an investiture ceremony on 16 November in the church of St. Joseph in Subiaco, a
small town close to Perth Western Australia, Australia’s largest State. The
Lieutenancy of this State celebrated its 25th anniversary at the same
On 20 November he presided over a further investiture ceremony at St. Francis
Xavier Cathedral in the city of Adelaide the most populated city of the State,
in the Lieutenancy of Southern Australia. Finally on Sunday 24 November another
investiture ceremony took place at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne,
Victoria, the smallest State in Australia, which nonetheless covers an area the
size of the United Kingdom...
The Australian press reported extensively on this trip during which the
investiture into the Order of fifteen new Knights and Dames sparked a renewed interest in the Holy Land among Australian Catholics,
whose numbers are on the increase because of immigration.
Further trips outside Italy are scheduled in 2014 by the Grand Master: Porto
Rico in March, Florida and Hawaii in June, and Portugal in October.
* * *
GRAND MASTER’S RECEPTION ON OUR LADY QUEEN OF PALESTINE, PATRON OF THE ORDER’S
The feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Palestine, Patron of the
Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, has been celebrated this
year, as usual, on the month of October with a reception held at the halls of
the Grand Magisterium, Della Rovere Palace, near St. Peter’s Square. It has
been hosted, on Tuesday 15 October, by the Grand Master of the Order, His
Eminence Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien who, with the Governor General Agostino
Borromeo by his side, welcomed all the religious and lay personalities invited
to attend. Among them, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation
for Oriental Churches; Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, President of the
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People; Cardinal Andrea Cordero
Lanza di Montezemolo, Assessor of Honor of the Order and Archpriest Emeritus of
the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul outside-the-Walls; Cardinal Francis Arinze,
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of
the Sacraments and Cardinal Bernard Law, Archpriest Emeritus of the Papal
Basilica of Saint Mary Major; some archbishops and bishops; many ambassadors and
diplomats accredited to the Holy See. Members of the Grand Magisterium were in
attendance, as well as dignitaries and lieutenants from all over Italy,
representatives of institutions and associations, like UNITALSI, an institution
in charge of taking sick people to Marian Sanctuaries, which cooperated with the
Order in the organization of its recent Pilgrimage on the Year of Faith.
Our Blessed Lady Queen of Palestine is worshipped at the Sanctuary of Dei Rafat,
midway between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, built on 1927 by the then Latin Patriarch
of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Luigi Barlassina. Her liturgical feast day,
approved by the Holy See 80 years ago in 1933, is celebrated on 25 October. She
was proclaimed the Patron of the Order by Pope John Paul II on 21 January 1994.
* * *
THANKS TO ALL THE LIEUTENANTS, MAGISTRAL DELEGATES, KNIGHTS AND LADIES WHO TOOK
PART IN THE INTERNATIONAL PILGRIMAGE OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.
Prof. Ivan Rebernik, Chancellor of the EOHSJ and president of the
Committee that organized and handled the recently ended International Pilgrimage
of the Order on the Year of Faith, deeply thanks all the Lieutenants and
Magistral Delegates who offered their careful and enthusiastic contribution to
the realization of this event, and all the Knights and Dames of all classes and
ranks for their active participation in it, including all the Order’s external
interlocutors somehow actively involved in all the different steps of the
Pilgrimage path throughout Roman Basilicas and Churches, to Paul VI Audience
Hall, Vatican Museums and Gardens.
Professor Rebernik is willing to offer his heartfelt gratitude to
the UNITALSI leaders and excellent technicians for their untiring and effective
dedication in taking care of hotel accommodation of our pilgrims and of their
transfer, on dozens of buses, from a place to another in Rome. He would like to
express his very special thanks particularly to the Lieutenant for Central Italy
and his closest cooperators for their extraordinary assistance in welcoming
thousands of our individual pilgrims, for their impeccable attention to
religious and lay protocols during all of the Pilgrimage events, for taking care
of the publications that the pilgrims found in their bags, and certainly for the
wonderful polyphonic concert of sacred music. Last, but not least, an enormous
thank-you is due to all of the Grand Magisterium staff members for their
* * *
HOW TO VIEW AND ORDER
PHOTOS FROM THE EVENTS
Photographs of the works of the CONSULTA (September 10 to12) are
available for order on www.carlamorselli.com (password: consulta).
Photographs of the three days PILGRIMAGE (September 13 to15) are
available on the photography service of L’Osservatore Romano:
Here are the links:
In the web toolbar of www.photovat.com/index1.htm click on:
- “Catalogue” for
INFORMATION on prices and sizes ;
- “Orders” to access the online ORDER FORM ;
- “Info Pubblication” for instructions on how to fill out PUBBLICATION requests.
* * *
The International Pilgrimage of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in
Led by their Grand Master, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, more than 3500 Knights and
Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, coming from
five continents, participated in a great three-day pilgrimage organized in Rome
on the occasion of the Year of Faith, from 13 to 15 September 2013. The
highpoint of this “spiritual journey” was the celebration of the Feast of the
Exaltation of the Holy Cross as a sign of fidelity to a lifelong the commitment
to a life the support of the Christians in the Holy Land from the moral and
material point of view, and particularly to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
During the opening Mass that took place on Friday, 13 September in the Basilica
of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls, all the participants gathered in their ceremonial
dress – the white mantle for the Knights and black for the Ladies, marked with
the red Jerusalem cross symbolizing the five wounds of Christ – the Grand Master
placed the pilgrimage in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Palestine,
“God’s first dwelling upon the earth”, and “the pillar of Faith”. With a
profoundly Marian surge, the assembly then enthusiastically intoned the Lourdes
The audience with the Holy Father
In the afternoon of this first day there was a meeting with Pope Francis in the
Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, preceded by a catechesis by Archbishop Rino
Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New
Evangelization, during the course of which this great theologian insisted on the
role of penance in the context of the pilgrimage in this Year of Faith, in a
perspective of a “change of heart” and a profound movement of interior
conversion. The Knights and Ladies, dressed in their mantles, then had the
joyous opportunity to listen to the Holy Father’s message and receive his
Apostolic Blessing addressed to them and all their loved ones. “The pilgrims
present represent some 30,000 members in 35 countries”, the Grand Master pointed
out in his opening remarks addressed to the Pope, recalling as well the work of
the recent quinquennial Consulta that allowed the leaders of the 62
Lieutenancies to work on the new Constitution for a “spiritual and missionary
renewal” of the Order whose social works of charity contribute to peace in the
Holy Land and the Middle East.
Going deeper into the message he gave during the Mass marking the beginning of
his pontificate on 19 March, Pope Francis reflected in front of the pilgrims on
the three words, “journey”, “construct” and “confess”, inviting the Knights and
Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre to always believe more and more in the “redemptive
power of the Cross and Resurrection” in order to “offer the hope and peace of
which the land of Jesus, in particular, is in such great need!” In this regard
he emphasized the special historic relationship binding this almost a
thousand-year-old Order to the Bishops of Rome.
The celebration of the Holy Cross
Faithful to this bond with the Holy Father, in the morning of Saturday, 14
September, on the occasion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the
pilgrims went to pray in the Pontifical Basilica of Saint John Lateran in the
presence of Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Holy Father’s Vicar for the Diocese
of Rome. “We are here to pray for the intentions of the Bishop of Rome who is
himself a universal sign of charity”, said Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, referring to
Pope Francis’s appeal for “a poor Church”, faithful to the Beatitudes, and
asking the members of the Order to take advantage of this pilgrimage to renew in
their hearts the spirit of service on behalf of the Church in the Holy Land
even in the places where they live as well. Accompanied by a concert of sacred
music – with the Musicanova and Eos Chorales, directed by Fabrizio Barchi – that
was meant to accompany their prayers, many Knights and Ladies received the
sacrament of reconciliation in the confessionals that were made available to
them for their intentions in all the languages
On Saturday afternoon, in St. Peter’s Basilica, during a solemn Mass the Knights
and Ladies prayed “to receive the wisdom of the Spirit that flows from the
“We are happy to have the privilege of celebrating the [Feast of the] Cross of
Christ in the most important basilica in all of Christianity after that of the
Holy Sepulchre”. Thus the Grand Master expressed his joy in the name of all the
participants, and then repeated Pope Francis “program sentence” as a proposal,
made the Order as a whole: to return to the essential and examine its
conscience “If we profess Christ without carrying the Cross, we are not the
Lord’s disciples, we are worldly … ”. He then emphasized some of the many
incisive words of Romano Guardini to help the Knights and Ladies to reclaim the
symbol of the cross as a daily protection against temptations and an expression
of their desire to unite all their personal sufferings with that of Christ, and
to do so with love.
New commitments on behalf of the Holy Land
Strengthened by this meditations and prayers, the pilgrims kept their
appointment for the closing Mass on Sunday, 15 September, once again in the
Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls, where an extraordinary celebration
took place for the investiture of 34 Knights and Ladies (25 French and 9
Brazilian). The Grand Master mentioned Blessed Pope John Paul II who considered
the Pontifical Order as an “Honor Guard” for the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord,
exhorting all the pilgrims – after these three days lived under the sign of
conversion—to witness to the whole world that this tomb is empty “because Jesus
Christ is living in our hearts and in our works of love for all, especially on
behalf of those who live in the Land where He walked.”
With their pilgrimage, then, the members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy
Sepulchre of Jerusalem fulfilled a traditional act of piety—a visit to the tombs
of the Apostles Peter and Paul—in the context of the Year of Faith. At the same
time, however, they wanted to express their unfailing fidelity to the successor
of Peter, in the person of Pope Francis, and their absolute obedience to his
Participation in the pilgrimage was also made possible through the logistical
support of da U.N.I.T.A.L.S.I., an institution in charge of organization
pilgrimages, especially to Lourdes. Working in close contact with the Order,
this institution took care of approximately 1500 pilgrims from many
countries—Knights, Ladies and their family members—who took advantage of their
logistical services throughout the entire pilgrimage.
* * *
As it is customary every five years, the Consulta of the Order of the Holy
Sepulchre composed by all the representatives in charge from all over the world,
convened here in Rome.
From 10-12 September 2013, all the Grand Magisterium members and all those in
charge of the 62 Lieutenancies and Magistral Delegations of the Equestrian Order
of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem who came to Rome from 35 different countries
(from Argentina to Canada, from USA to Taiwan and Guam, from Norway to South
Africa) gathered in Rome for the Consulta – sort of their quinquennial
“parliament” – in spiritual communion with the Christians living in the Holy
Land and while an international pilgrimage was taking place, which called to
Rome approximately 3500 Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre on the occasion
of the Year of Faith.
“We very much care for the renewal of our 50 years-old Statutes”, said Cardinal
Edwin F. O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, at the
opening of the works, and reassured people in attendance about his willingness
to be present and attentive. He stressed the importance for the Order to be
spiritually demanding in the choice, appointment and continuing formation of its
members, and to be open to introduce younger people and families into the Order
of the Holy Sepulchre, so to give rise to new energies on behalf of the Holy
Land and to a deeper commitment on behalf of the local Churches.
Holy Land and survival of Christians
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, Grand Prior of the Order, said he is
sure that the Order of the Holy Sepulchre’s main goal to support the Christians
in the Holy Land, will be maintained even in the new Constitution. The survival
of these brothers and sisters of ours is unfortunately threatened - just like it
happens with other countries in the same geographical area devastated by all
kinds of violence- and they do need help and solidarity in facing the emergency,
even though they feel doubtful with regard to the prospective institutional
enlargement of the Knights and Dames’ field of action to the whole area. “Your
charity is very important to the Christians in the Holy Land who have always
been taking care of those sites that are sacred for all of us” said Monsignor
Peter Wells, Assessor at the Secretariat of Vatican State, expressing “the
gratitude of the Church for the (Order’s) generous service and ongoing
commitment” on their behalf. At the very beginning of his speech he said that
the Holy Father Francis “presiding over the charity as the Bishop of Rome, is
accompanying the works of the Consulta with his prayer”.
“A very commendable contribution”
The Secretariat of Vatican State, as well as the Congregation for the Oriental
Churches, both very close to the life of the Order, customarily send their
representatives at the Consulta in accordance with the dictate of the Order’s
Constitution. So, His Eminence Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of
Congregation for the Oriental Churches, in a message read by Reverend Monsignor
Maurizio Malvestiti, undersecretary to the same Congregation, thanked Knights
and Dames for “their meritorious contribution from all over the world on behalf
of the Holy Land” recalling even the “active cooperation” with the R.O.A.C.O.
(“Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali” that is the “Reunion of Aid Agencies
for the Oriental Churches”), an institution that the Order serves on. He
mentioned all the nations forming the “eastern territories” entrusted by Supreme
Pontiffs to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches considering the Holy Land
“in its widest sense”. Finally, he urged the Order to keep paying attention
both to the Conciliar outlook on the Christian East through the liturgy, and to
the formation of candidates to become members of the Order.
The Order’s continuing expansion
During his introduction of the Instrumentum laboris on the review of
the Order’s Constitution, Governor General Agostino Borromeo stressed the real
need of it, by recalling, among other things, that the previous Constitution,
dating back to 50 years ago, was the expression of the Order when it was
composed by eleven Lieutenancies only; it subsequently grew up both
geographically and numerically: nowadays its thirty thousand members assure a
strong financial support on behalf of the Holy Land. Such a growth would
perhaps anticipate a future possibility of extending its charitable action to
Christians living in other areas of the country.
Main commitment on behalf of Jerusalem
Three different groups composed by Lieutenants and Magistral Delegates from
homogeneous geographical areas and similar languages, have been examining,
during three days, some suggestions to update the Constitution according to
Vatican Council II, to the new Canon Law Code, to all the challenges the
Christianity had to face at the beginning of the Third Millennium. They
confirmed the Order’s main prayerful and financial commitment on behalf of the
Church of Jerusalem, the place of Our Lord’s Resurrection which is the reason
for the Order’s existence; especially on behalf of the Latin Patriarchate, its
parishes, seminary, schools, social and charity works, though without proving
indifferent to the needs of Catholics of other rites and the humanitarian
emergencies in the Holy Land. They focused their attention particularly on the
formation of the future members of the Order as a condition for the spiritual
growth of all of the members’ moral integrity, generous commitment to their
Christian testimony and service to the local Churches; they also asked for a
wider cooperation between the Lieutenants and the Bishops, many of whom are
Grand Priors of the various Lieutenancies.
For an up-to-date and more straightforward Constitution
The assistance of some Lieutenants, Magistral Delegates and Grand Magisterium
Members, who are illustrious jurists, helped the rise of suggestions in order to
change and update the Constitution, with regard to the civil laws in force in
many countries and the persistence of various different traditions, in addition
to the necessary financial transparency, ratifying some conducts which were
actually introduced long before.
Common was the recommendation to streamline the Constitution, moving many
implementational regulations to a Statute, even in order to facilitate their
update as time goes by.
Though love and respect for history, for the configuration and the ideals of
this knightly institution remained the same, its charitable vocation has been
The suggestions from the Consulta will be received and evaluated by a committee
which will submit the new version of the Constitution to the Grand Master who,
after his own review, will submit it to the Holy Father for approval.
* * *
POPE FRANCIS MEETS MORE THAN 3,500 KNIGHTS AND DAMES OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
5:00PM on Friday 13 September
Paul VI Audience Hall
In the afternoon today, the Holy Father Francis is going to meet with
more than 3,500 Knights and Dames of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of
Jerusalem from five continents, on a pilgrimage to Rome during the Year of Faith
(the number of attendees has been increasing during the last few days). They
are going to wear their traditional capes bearing the insignia of the Order (the
Cross potent recalling the five wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ), led to Paul VI
Hall in the Vatican by their Grand Master, Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien who, in the
morning, celebrated a Mass for them in the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul outside
the Walls. In preparation to the meeting with the Holy Father, the Most
Reverend Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council
for Promotion of the New Evangelization, will be delivering a catechesis on the
Year of Faith, as he is presiding over all the events celebrating it.
The Order’s International Pilgrimage to Rome is entering now its most
significant phase going on for the next three days and ending on Sunday 15
September, once again in the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls on the Via
Ostiense. Hundreds of pilgrims had started it off on Tuesday 10 September, by
attending a Mass celebrated in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina
and presided over by the Most Reverend Archbishop Giuseppe de Andrea, Assessor
of Honor of the Order. Two similar concelebrations took place respectively on
Wednesday 11 September in the Chiesa del Gesù, chaired by Reverend
Monsignor Francis D. Kelly, the Grand Magisterium Religious Master of
Ceremonies, and yesterday, Thursday 12 September, in the Basilica of Santa
Maria in Trastevere, main celebrant being the Most Reverend Philip E.
Wilson, Archbishop of Adelaide and Grand Prior of the Western Australian
Lieutenancy of the Order. Those pilgrims had the chance to take a tour of Saint
Mary Major Papal Basilica and its museum, the Church of Saint Mary on the
Aracoeli , the Capitoline hill and the Vatican Museums.
SPECIAL POSTAL CANCELLATION FOLDER
BY THE VATICAN MAIL SERVICE
The Vatican Mail Service is celebrating today’s event through a special
philatelic cancellation and an illustrated folder called “Pope Francis meets the
Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani” recalling in five different
languages a synthetic history of this institution, a recent meeting of the
Cardinal Grand Master with Pope Francis and the renowned prayer of the Knights
and the Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.
Press conference presided
by Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Grand Master
Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, on 5
September at the Holy See’s Press Room presented two events of special relevance
which are going to draw the attention of the whole Catholic World. They are the
International Pilgrimage to Rome of 3 thousand Knights and Ladies of the Holy
Sepulchre to Rome, 10 – 15 September, on the occasion of the Year of Faith; and
the concurrent meeting of the Consulta of the Order, to be held on the
Pilgrimage’s first three days (10-12 September), to revise the Order’s
To this regard, Governor General Agostino Borromeo – during a further
remark – spoke of the possibility of a “turning point in history” as the text
that is going to be examined by the members of the Consulta “(it) already aims
to develop more organically the spiritual commitment of the Order’s members, to
more deeply root the action of the 'peripheral structures' (the Lieutenancies
and Delegations) in the life of the local Churches, and to extend the charitable
activities of the Order to a broader area of the Middle East than that in which
it currently operates”(Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian Territories, under
the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s jurisdiction). The Consulta is
composed by the members of the Grand Magisterium, the representatives of the 62
peripheral organizations (Lieutenancies and Magistral Delegations), spread
throughout the five continents, and two representatives chosen respectively by
the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Oriental
Churches; a presence – he specified - that is bearing witness of the “direct
bond existing between the Order and the Holy See”. The development of the works
will produce a new version of the Constitution to be submitted by the Grand
Master to the Holy Father for approval.
The Order’s moral and material aid on behalf of the Holy Land
At the beginning of the press conference, the Cardinal Grand Master,
synthetically introduced “the institution His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI so very
benevolently asked me to lead”, recalling its history, its presence in 35
different countries and the main goals it is pursuing: growth of practice of
the Christian life among its members and growth of its moral and material aid on
behalf of the Church in the Holy Land, “with special though not exclusive
attention to the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem”, mentioning to
this regard that the Grand Magisterium has been recently called by the Holy See
to carry out works in Lebanon and Egypt. The Order’s financial commitment on
behalf of the Holy Land in the ten years from 2000 – 2012 has been of 98 million
US dollars. Actually, the contributions from the members of the Order have been
constantly growing up during the last three years, as opposed to the serious
international recession’s current trend.
The Order’s members testimony during the Year of Faith
Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, in
charge of the organization of the Year of Faith, underlined that “Knights and
Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre were among the first who joined and supported the
Year of Faith”. And now, through this sign of the Pilgrimage to Rome, they are
highlighting their journey as Catholic believers”, following the route Pope
Francis indicated in his first homily, as they “are conjugating their journey
with the need of building and witnessing their Faith”. Their testimony,
he added, “will be even more effective as it is the visible mark of a direct
commitment to the actual building of peace especially in those countries and
among the many innocents and poor who, during these days more than ever, are
experiencing extraordinary tensions and fears due to the violence impending over
them and the whole world”.
Looking forward to the Holy Father’s meeting with pilgrims
The press conference went on with Chancellor Ivan Rebernik who
illustrated the Order’s International Pilgrimage to Rome 10-15 September 2013,
organized with the precious logistic help offered by the UNITALSI (Unione
Nazionale Italiana Trasporto Ammalati a Lourdes e Santuari Internazionali -
Italian National Company for Sick Transportation to Lourdes and International
Shrines) (whose president was sitting among the press conference important
guests), and ending with the Holy Father Francis’ special audience in Paul VI
Hall on 13 September. “All the components of the Order throughout the world
will be represented during this event of Faith, with more than 3.000 pilgrims
coming from all the Lieutenancies and Magistral Delegations spread throughout
the five continents” he said.
A conference by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella in Paul VI Hall, and a concert,
followed by reflection and prayer on behalf of the Syrian situation, to be held
in the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran, are scheduled as a complement to the
daily liturgical celebrations in some Rome downtown churches and main
Basilicas. The closing Mass will be celebrated by the Grand Master in the Papal
Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.
Opposing the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land
Archbishop Antonio Franco, Assessor of the Order and former Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Apostolic
Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, spoke of the situation of Christians in the
Holy Land and explained that, just like what generally happens with all the
minority groups living in war areas, they are experiencing all kinds of daily
difficulties and suffering, and are forced to “a continuing exodus”. “This is
not a religious kind of problem; it is mainly a sociological matter, even
though all the extremists have their interest in creating divisions” he added,
just relying on his long time experience in that particular area of the world.
He paid homage to the Order’s aids on behalf of the Christians in the Holy Land
helping them continue their own activities on the spot, particularly recalling
the Order’s financial contributions to schools and various social, cultural,
healthcare and charity activities of the Latin Patriarchate, even granting
microcredit to family and handicraft businesses.
The journalists’ questions then focused on the situation in Syria and the
position of the Church in view of a prospective American military attack that
might set the area even more on fire than it is now. Cardinal O’Brien responded
on behalf of the Order, which is largely represented in the USA, announcing that
all the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre are joining the historical
fasting and prayer initiative for peace promoted by Pope Francis for Saturday 7
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre “modern” nature
At the end of the press conference, Father Ciro Benedettini, Vice
Director of the Press Room and moderator of the conference, thanked all the
speakers and all who attended, highlighting the “modern” nature of the
Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, not very much known often times, which
has been able to positively respond, throughout the centuries, to the mission on
behalf of the Holy Land it was entrusted with by the Holy Pontiffs. He reported
that the remarks pronounced during the press conference have been published on
no. 0551 of the Press Room Bulletin, on 5 September 2013.
6 September 2013 press release
Media have largely spread the news of the Grand Master Cardinal Edwin O’Brien’s
press conference in the Holy See Press Room. We can mention:
- Vatican Radio with coverage by Barbara Donnini and a more than 4 minutes
interview with the Governor General of the Order, published on the Vatican
Radio’s very popular Daily News bulletin (radiovaticana.va) which can be
listened to even on the news.va website.
- “The Osservatore Romano” on page 7 (osservatoreromano.va)
- “Avvenire” with an article by Gianni Cardiunale (avvenire.it)
- “korazim.org” website with a fine article by young journalist Veronica
* * *
International pilgrimage to Rome for the Year of Faith By the
Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
On 13 September,
vigil of the fest of the Exaltation of the Cross, Knights and Ladies
of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, having come to Rome in
pilgrimage for the Year of Faith, will be received by Pope Francis
in a special audience. There will be approximately 3,000
participants, led by the Order’s Grand Master, the American
Cardinal Edwin Frederick O'Brien, former Archbishop of Baltimore.
The purpose of the
Order, which is of medieval origin but was reconstituted by Pope
Pius IX in 1847, is the growth of the spiritual life of its members
and support for the Catholic Church in the Holy Land in the broader
sense of the phrase, which includes Cyprus, Israel, the Palestinian
Territories, Jordan…. It is directly dependent on the Holy See. Its
approximately 30,000 members in 35 nations are organized in
Lieutenancies and Magistral Delegations. Their committed action in
the Church is accompanied by a significant financial support that
are essentially destined to institutions and activities of the Latin
Patriarchate of Jerusalem. For example, donations in the last ten
years have totaled almost 100 million dollars and were used for the
construction or restoration of churches, schools and hospitals, or
for support for family businesses and the work of craftsmen.
The pilgrimage of
this Pontifical Order to Rome will be preceded by an important
event, the Consulta, which is held every five years. Its
members will devote their attention to the revision of the Order’s
constitution, which date from about 50 years ago, and must therefore
be adapted to the new needs, in particular that of fostering the
Knights’ and Ladies’ committed involvement in the particular
Churches; for the collective sanctification of the lay faithful
promoted by the Second Vatican Council, which is in harmony with the
Magisterium of Pope Francis.
A brief history
of the Order, its organization and objectives.
The Order’s origins
trace back to the taking of Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bouillon in
1099, although the first documentary evidence of it bears the date
of 1336 when Guillaume of Boldensel, a gentleman from Saxony,
conferred investiture on two of his companions near Christ’s empty
tomb, “at the Holy Sepulchre”. Initially they wanted to be “Knights
of Christ”, without pledging fealty to any temporal power.
Thus began the
official history of the Order in the dynamism of a return to the
source of genuine knighthood, free and spiritual in nature, in
reaction to the cultural drift of western nobility which was in a
state of decline because of the worldly influence of the concept of
courtly love. It was a time for regaining the ideal of Saint
Bernard, adding to the classic commitments of knighthood – defense
of the Church, of widows and orphans – the defense of the Holy Land.
For centuries, until recent changes, investitures took place only
in Jerusalem. And it was the Franciscans, the “guardians” of the
Holy Sepulchre, who continued the ritual of the investiture,
gradually extending it to those notable figures who showed a certain
nobility of merit, and to members of the clergy.
Later on, as Pope
Pius IX reestablished the Latin Patriarchate, he reorganized the
Order in 1847, conferring on it a purely pontifical character and
entrusting to it the task of the material, and therefore financial,
support of the Patriarchate.
Notes about the
The first pilgrims
will arrive in Rome beginning 9 September.
On the 10th,
marking the beginning of the pilgrimage, the Consulta will
begin; it is composed of the members of the Grand Magisterium, the
Lieutenants and Magistral Delegates from 35 countries and
representatives of the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for
Eastern Churches; the schedule includes three days of work on the
On the 13th,
the pilgrimage will enter into its solemn phase with a morning Mass
celebrated by Cardinal O'Brien, Grand Master, in the Basilica of St.
Paul outside the Walls; on that afternoon an audience with the Holy
Father is planned at Paul VI Audience Hall, which will be preceded
by a conference by the President of the Pontifical Council for the
Promotion of the New Evangelization, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella.
On the 14th, the
Feast of the Holy Cross, a Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter’s
Basilica, with the Grand Master presiding once again;
On the 15th,
the pilgrimage will close with a Eucharistic celebration in the
Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, during which a number of new
Knights and Ladies will be invested in the Order.