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Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

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The Order bids last farewell to Honorary Assessor Msgr. Giuseppe De Andrea

Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea was born in Rivarolo Canavese on 20 April, 1930. He was ordained a priest in 1953 in the Consolata Missions Institute, a congregation that devotes particular attention to the evangelization of peoples.

The young priest served in the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania (USA), for more than two decades, where he held various pastoral positions in education and administration. He was called by the Holy See to serve in the office of Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York from 1983 to 1994. Subsequently for five years he worked for the Vatican as the Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

Monsignor De Andrea received the fullness of the priesthood in 2001 and was appointed titular Archbishop of Anzio. He also received the responsibility of serving as Apostolic Nuncio to Kuwait, Bahrain and Yemen, in addition to serving as Apostolic Delegate to the Arabian Peninsula. In the homily at De Andrea’s episcopal consecration, Cardinal Angelo Sodano recalled the faithfulness to the call received that has always accompanied this pastor of God’s Church: “Dear Father Giuseppe, an immense field of work opens before you.As the young Samuel, you listened to the Lord’s voice, and promptly responded: ‘Here I am, O Lord... your servant is listening’ (Samuel 3:1-10). Like Mary on the day of the Annunciation, you expressed your ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call”. In 2003 he was also appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Qatar. In 2005, upon having reached the age limit, he retired from diplomatic office.

Msgr. Giuseppe De Andrea

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem has been fortunate enough to benefit from the experience and pastoral care of Msgr. De Andrea in the years when he served as Assessor of the Order (2008-2013), a position which he carried out with special dedication from 2011-2012, the period of time between the resignation of the Grand Master Cardinal Foley and the moment his successor, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, took possession of his position. From that time until his last days, as Honorary Assessor, he was always close to the mission of our Knights and Dames, and sustained it with his efforts and prayers.

Monsignor De Andrea passed away on 29 June, 2016, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, and his funeral was held on the first Friday of July in St. Peter’s Basilica. All members are united with the Grand Master, the Governor General and members of the Grand Magisterium, in accompanying this friend and supporter of the Order with prayers as he has returned to the house of the Father.

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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])

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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".

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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.

Alfredo Bastianelli, nuovo Cancelliere dell’Ordine

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.

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Jubilee Pilgrimage of the Holy Sepulchre to Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii

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”.

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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.

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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 Holy Year.

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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 6 th, 2015.

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:

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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

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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

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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 determined.

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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 interview.

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 Jewish culture.

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 condition.

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

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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 Jordan.

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“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 University.

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).

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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 pluralism.
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



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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

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 “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 Promoting the
New Evangelization

- 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 to them?

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).

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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 the Trinity?”

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).

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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

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Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 
Archbishop of Lyon and Primate of the Gauls

Mercy Is the Great Marian Message for an Authentic Christian-Muslim Dialogue

- 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

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“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 Jesus walked.

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

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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.

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A New Commission for the American University of Madaba (Jordan)

Official Communication

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 years.

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


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Patriarch of Jerusalem and Grand Prior of the Order Mgr. Fouad Twal makes an urgent appeal to dioceses around the world

Mons. Fouad Twal, Patriarca Latino di Gerusalemme

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 Patriarchs.

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.

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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 Rites.

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 Virgin Mary.

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.

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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 church.

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 Patriarch Twal.

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.

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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 Cyprus.

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 Ferrauto.

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 premium.

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 problems.

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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 1054.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 time.

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.

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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.

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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 invaluable contribution.

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Photographs of the works of the CONSULTA (September 10 to12) are available for order on (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 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.

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The International Pilgrimage of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

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 Hymn.

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 Cross”.

“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 teachings.

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 enhanced. 

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.

* * *


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.



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 Constitution.

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 September 2013.

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 ( which can be listened to even on the website.

- “The Osservatore Romano” on page 7 (

- “Avvenire” with an article by Gianni Cardiunale (

- “” website with a fine article by young journalist Veronica Giacometti (

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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 pilgrimage program.

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 new constitution.

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.