The Nature of Nomination and Membership

in this Catholic Order of Chivalry

Investiture and membership in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is three-fold in nature:

a)to become a member of a religious community of devoted Catholics, and to share with them enriching spiritual activities:

b)to devote yourself with generosity to an important endeavour of the Church;

c)to exercise, in the contemporary world and in a spirit open to this world, the basic, and always relevant, knightly virtues, and to thus continue a tradition which has remained alive for almost one thousand years.

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre was founded around the year 1099 by knights who participated in the first crusade. As Christian knights they were already devoted to the Christian virtues of the love of God and of their neighbour, as well as to the knightly virtues of rectitude,courage, sacrifice, and "courtesy of the hearts". A decision was made to unite, in a knightly and religious Order, those who showed a special veneration for the places hallowed by the life and by the passion of Christ, especially the Holy Sepulchre - a symbol of our redemption - and who were ready to attend to the protection and to the freedom of access of these sanctuaries.

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre rapidly received recognition and support from the HolySee; it has maintained for almost nine centuries the essence of its mission and the best of its traditions. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre is, together with the Sovereign Order of Malta, the oldest Order of chivalry. These two Orders served as models for the creation of the other great Orders of chivalry in the Occident and are today the only ones recognized by the Holy See as independent Catholic Orders of knighthood.


The nomination to become a Knight or a Lady of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is extended to practising Catholics who have shown great devotion to the Church, and who desire to progress in their personal sanctification by adhering to a religious community of world-wide dimensions, whose members are united in spirituality and who share certain spiritual activities.

Although this spiritual communion is an essential objective of the Order, the specific activities related to it are by no means exacting and can be shared by persons fully engaged in a very active life. The dimensions and the nature of these activities have varied throughout the ages and vary also with differing geographic, social and cultural situations; in the Lieutenancy of Canada-Toronto they may comprise the investiture ceremonies, periodic gatherings (which includes the Holy Sacrifice, a fraternal repast, and a session devoted to the realization of the charitable mission of the Order, to the study of religious and social problems,and to other questions of interest to the Order) and also, other religious activities, for instance,a retreat or a day of recollection during Lent, and Advent, and pilgrimage to the Holy Land.


The nomination of a person to the rank of a Knight or Lady of the Holy Sepulchre is extended to Catholics who desire to work together for an important cause of the Church. Strictly speaking, one should never admission to the Order; rather, each candidate for Investiture is nominated by someone who is already a member of the Order. The nominator should know the candidate very well and would understand the the nature of membership as a Lady or Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

The particular task entrusted to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre has changed during the ages. Thus, in a distant past, the Knights were called upon to defend the Holy Places by the force of arms, to protect the pilgrims and to take part in the erection and conservation of sanctuaries in the Holy Land.

At present, the material upkeep of the Holy Places is taken care of, to the greatest extent,by the Friars of St. Francis and their freedom of access can no longer depend on a host of knights, although a non-political organization such as the Order of the Holy Sepulchre may still contribute indirectly to the safeguard of this freedom.

As a matter of fact, the interest of the Church in the Holy Land has never been confined to the veneration and to the upkeep of the sanctuaries, as significant and important as they maybe in the perspective of the history of our salvation. Rather, the Universal Church has been primarily concerned, since the times of the Apostles, with the living Church in Christ's homeland. Indeed, the fate of the Church of the Holy Land is of particular importance; not only because of its very special and direct ties to Christ - but also because this Church is the Mother of all Churches in Christendom. It was not surprising that Jerusalem was the site of the reconciliation, of great historic importance, of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, at the occasion of the pilgrimages, in 1964, of His Holiness Pope Paul VI and of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Anthenagoras. The survival and the spiritual vitality of the Church of the Holy Land have thus a deep oecumenical significance. It is essential that the Christian Church remains truly alive in the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, the "Capital of Monotheism" a term we owe to His Holiness Pope Paul VI.

The Universal Church has now entrusted specifically our Order with the very special mission to work for the Church's survival and for its development in the Land of Christ. Today,as in the days of the Apostles, the Church of the Holy Land is poor, even under-developed. The lack of security of the native Christian population, primarily composed of Arabs, is such that it is severely menaced in its meaningful survival, by emigration; this emigration affects mostly the elite who should be at the heart of social and spiritual developments. In order to enable the Church to survive in the Holy Land, one therefore has to give to the people who compose it, the means to emerge from their state of under-development. In these days after the Palestinian-Israeli accord we are faced with a society which virtually has no infrastructure.

One of the keys to the realization of this goal of development is an improvement in education. Without a good and effective educational system, it is impossible to achieve meaningful progress to free a population from foreign aid and thus to restore to the population its full human dignity. For this reason, the Church has entrusted, for a number of years, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre with the maintenance and development of Catholic schools in the Holy Land. Approximately three quarters of the schools in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem(which includes all of the Holy Land and even surrounding countries) are financed by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The Order has also played a significant role in the creation and in the development of the University of Bethlehem. the most important mission of which is the training of teachers. The oecumenical spirit of the Order is exemplified by the fact that the schools under its patronage are not only accessible to children belonging to all Christian communities but also to children belonging to other faiths. primarily to young Moslems, in whose hearts the distrust of Christians is thus replaced by understanding and affection. However, education is not sufficient if there is no employment available. We must, therefore, help to build enterprises to employ these graduates. Thus, in our way do everything we can to contribute to the building of business. If we do not, the Palestinians, particularly the Christians, will continue to leave the Holy Land in droves as they are now doing.

What are now, in this perspective, the responsibilities and duties of a member of the Order? To make known, in his/her sphere, the needs of the Church in the Holy Land and to promote relevant support for the Church there, and to contribute personally to this support and help. In our days. this means that members are prepared to make, each year, contributions to the charitable endeavours of the Order in the Holy Land and, also, to manifest concretely, at the occasion of their acceptance into the Order, their true participation in the cause which they have espoused.1 These contributions are free donations; the gifts offered at the moment of adherence do not represent an unconditional obligation and, conversely, even an important donation can definitely not entail by itself, admission into the Order. However, these contributions represent a contemporary means of achieving the permanent mission of the Order:the maintenance and development of the Church in Christ's homeland, the most important sanctuary of which is the Holy Sepulchre - a symbol of our redemption.


The invitation to become a Knight or a Lady of the Order of the Sepulchre is extended to Catholics who honestly desire to preserve cultivate the best of the traditions of Christian chivalry.

To be a member of the Christian Order of chivalry means that one is a soldier of Christ,a witness and disciple to Christ, a servant to one's brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, the first tradition of members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is to practice the virtues of Christian chivalry, thus to serve God and humanity with exceptional devotion. Hence, one of the traditions of a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre - actually an obligation to which he subscribes - is the exemplary practice of Christian charity. The Order expects from its members to devote themselves not only to the specific endeavours which are entrusted to them, but to bear witness to their membership in the Order by also serving with special devotion their local Church and their people, to set examples of dedication and service in their religious and social spheres.

It is natural that apart from this essential tradition, an organization with such a long and prestigious history as the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, also cultivates traditions related to its own specific nature. Since the beginning of the existence of the Order, the new members celebrate together with those who already belong to the Order, their adherence to this fraternal association, to this religious community. The form of these celebrations changes with the times,but certain traditions are maintained to establish a link with the origins of the Order. It is in this perspective that one should conceive the symbols of the Order. Thus, the quintuple cross of Jerusalem which is bestowed on the new member, is a symbol of our redemption and an outward sign of the union between the brothers and sisters who constitute the Order throughout the world. However, none of the traditions, none of the symbols of the Order, should serve ostentatious purposes, or the satisfaction of personal vanity. Indeed, the members of the Order should not pride themselves on having received a reward, but rather, their pride should reside in the honour of having been called upon to serve God, the Church, and humanity in a special way with exceptional devotion.

An international body, many hundred years of age, to which important concrete tasks have been entrusted, needs of course, a well-defined structure and an efficient organization.

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is placed under the supreme patronageof the Holy Father and its direction is assumed by a Grand Master, a Cardinal of the HolyChurch, named by the Pope. The Grand Master is assisted by the Grand Magisterium,composed of approximately twelve members mostly belonging to the laity. The Grand Master receives, regularly. the advice of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who is the Grand Prior of the Order. The headquarters of the Order are in Rome, its centre of activity in Jerusalem.

The Order, which now comprises some 20,000 members, is divided into national Lieutenancies. Generally, the jurisdiction of each Lieutenancy coincides with the borders of a State; in very large countries, such as the United States of America and Canada, there exists more than one Lieutenancy - in the United States, nine, and in Canada, four (Quebec City,Montreal, Toronto, and, most recently, Vancouver). Each Lieutenancy is placed under direction and authority of a Lieutenant, a layman, and for spiritual matters, of a Grand Prior, a high ranking member of the clergy, generally a bishop or an archbishop, sometimes a cardinal. Certain Lieutenancies are divided into Sections and Local Delegations. For example: Canada-Torontohas one in Eastern Ontario. A Magistral Delegation of the EOHSJ has been established in the four Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Stewart LeForte, KHS, was appointed the first Magistral Delegate of the newly formed Magisral Delegation of Canada-Atlantic.The Canada-Montreal Lieutenancy is also in the process of establishing a section in the Ottawa Region. The National Lieutenants convene periodically, under the chairmanship of the Grand Master, with the members of the Grand Magisterium and with delegates from the Secretariate of State of His Holiness and of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches, for the 'Consulta".


The nature of the mission and of the traditions of the Order require that the nomination of an individual to become a member of this community of Knights and Ladies is extended to Catholics engaged in an exemplary religious and moral life. and who participate with devotion in the life and mission of the Church. The members of the Order consider themselves honoured to belong to such an association, prestigious in the perspective of its history and tradition, and important in the perspective of its mission. However, belonging to the Order does not constitute a reward for past services but rather. a constant pledge to serve the cause of Christ with more purpose and more devotion than ever! Thus, enlistment in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre must reflect itself in a deepened spirituality, a deepened fidelity to the Church in the fervent practice - in communion with the fellow members - of ever greater charity and particularly, in generous help extended to our Christian brothers and sisters in the homeland of Christ. The association under the symbol of the empty tomb under the symbol of the Holy Sepulchre, must inspire the members of the Order to be outstanding and exemplary servants of the Church and true soldiers and disciples of Christ.

An Article by H.E. Russell Kendall on the Importance of the Work of the Order in the Holy Land
Study of the Situation in the Bethlehem Area
Investiture Speech (1999) by Bro. David Carroll, FSC, Ph.D.
Saints and Beati Proper to the Order
Various Insignia of the Order
History of the Order
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