The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem is a lay, religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. The order can trace its origins to Godfrey de Bouillon of the first Crusade, who gathered around him a group of knights who were entrusted with the protection of the religious Chapter of Canons who were present at the Holy Sepulcher of Christ.
For 20 years, these knights, and those who came to join their number, protected the Christian presence at the Holy Sepulcher, taking as their banner the red Jerusalem cross popularized by the crusading knights. By 1113, Pope Paschal II officially recognized their existence and purpose:
- To strengthen in its members, the practice of Christian life, in absolute fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff and according to the teachings of the church, observing as its foundation the principles of charity of which the order is a fundamental means for assistance to the Holy Land
- To sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with which the order maintains traditional ties
- To support the preservation and propagation of the faith in those lands, including in this work the Catholics scattered throughout the world, united in charity by the symbol of the order, and also all brother Christians
- To sustain the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land
Today, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem has some 23,000 members (Knights and Dames) in 50 countries. Each country or region has its own Lieutenancy, led by a Lieutenant appointed by the Cardinal Grand Master. The order currently has 52 Lieutenancies: 24 in Europe, 15 in North America and Canada, 5 in Latin America and 6 in Australia and the Far East. The Lieutenancies are further pided into sections.
Membership in the order is by invitation only; it is offered to Roman Catholic men and women, lay or clerical, 25 years or older, whose record of service to the church and community indicates that they can be expected to make a significant contribution to the order’s work.
Joining the order means making a commitment for life. The commitment to be a Witness to the Faith, to lead an exemplary Christian life of continuing charity in support of the Christian communities in the Holy Land, and to practice the true charitable commitment of a Christian. Deus Lo Vult – God Wills It.
Thomas Duffy, KC*HS – Section President/Diocesan Representative
Nancy M. Powers, LC*HS – section coordinator