The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Vatican institution whose mission is to support the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, is preparing for its “Consulta” — a general assembly held every four years — in Rome from November 6 to 10, 2023. This year’s meeting takes place against a somber backdrop as clashes between Israelis and Palestinians have claimed thousands of lives in recent weeks. Pope Francis will meet with the 150 or so participants on November 9.
Their work is more necessary than ever
Cardinal Fernando Filoni — the Grand Master of the Order, traditionally appointed by the Pope — spoke about the event at a briefing at the Holy See on October 31. He stressed to the press that, given the “tragic moment” being experienced in the Holy Land, care for the suffering was more necessary than ever.
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, is himself due to come to Rome to address the highest offices of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Grand Magisterium, lieutenants, and magistral delegates).
Since the beginning of the conflict, the Order has seen a “continuous flow” of donations, according to Governor General Leonardo Visconti di Modrone. For example, he noted that he had received a notification of approximately $100,000 from Canada that very morning. This exceptional collection of funds does not yet have a “precise destination,” he added, specifying that it was up to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to assess needs and allocations.
All people have the right to live and subsist
For now, “the real urgency is to get to where our people are, and not just Christians […], to get medicine, food, water, diesel for the generators,” said Leonardo Visconti di Modrone.
Indeed, humanitarian efforts are struggling to reach the Gaza Strip, which has been placed under siege. The Governor General also stressed the need to think about “the future,” as “over there we’ll have to rebuild, start all over again from scratch.”
For Cardinal Filoni, it is not up to Christians to say “who is right and who is wrong” in this conflict. “If we don’t get out of this vision of confrontation, and respect the rights of all […], the struggles will continue,” he explained. The Italian prelate pleaded for Israel’s right to “live and subsist” as well as that of the people of Palestine to “live and subsist,” stressing that neither of these rights was “superior to the other; they are equal.”
The Consulta’s program
The work of this Consulta, five years after the last one in 2018, will open in the presence of representatives of the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Dicastery for Eastern Churches. In conclusion, the Pope will receive the participants in an audience on November 9. They will also make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Shrine of Divine Love, south of Rome.
For their reflections on the theme of formation, the members will draw inspiration from a book by Cardinal Fernando Filoni dedicated to the spirituality of the Order. The text has been translated into a dozen languages, including Chinese. The network is in fact present in Taiwan, with “a very active lieutenancy” of around 100 members, explained Leonardo Visconti di Modrone.
Founded in the 14th century, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem today numbers some 30,000 volunteers — known as knights and dames — in 64 lieutenancies in 40 countries. Headquartered in the Vatican, the Order coordinates its administrative activities from the Palazzo della Rovere, a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Order raises an average of 15 million euros a year, which it dedicates to humanitarian works in the Holy Land.