Centuries of Service to Christians in the Holy Land.

Ours is an Order with a long tradition of service. Ever since the Middle Ages people have travelled to the sites of the Holy Land as peaceful pilgrims.

Since the first crusade a tradition of ceremonially appointing Knights at the Holy Sepulchre evolved. While records of such appointments remain from the 1330s, there was not a single organised Order under the protection of the Holy See as it exists today.

In the 19th century, Pope Pius IX reorganized the Equestrian Order and set it the task to which we remain committed today:

  • To support the Christians living in the Holy Land, who actually descend from all our mother church, in their difficult situation as a religious minority and in view of the armed conflicts, and
  • To spiritually strengthen and deepen our Christian lifestyle spiritually.

Over the late 19th and 20th Century the Constitution of the Order was variously amended by Papal ordinance, the effects of which included permitting investitures to take place other than in Jerusalem. Pope as sovereign of the Order appoints a Cardinal as Grand Master. The current Grand Master is HE Cardinal Filoni, and the Order is headquartered in Vatican City under the unique protection of the Holy See. Members of the Order worldwide are organised geographically within Lieutenancies or Magistral Delegations.

When he met our members in Rome in 2013 Pope Francis spoke on three basic elements of Christian life: journeying, building, and professing. “Your journey,” said the Holy Father to members of the Order “is in history – in a world where the boundaries are ever-expanding, many barriers fall, and our paths are tied ever more closely to that of others.” He encouraged the dames and knights to be true to their tradition of faithful, compassionate and loving service, as they work to build a brighter future for and with the struggling Christians of the Holy Land.  “Believe in the redemptive power of the Cross and the Resurrection,” said Pope Francis, “in order to offer hope and peace. In a particular way, the Land of Jesus has so much need of it!

In late October 2019, 50 members and friends travelled to the Holy Land on pilgrimage to meet “the living stones”. In September 2022 we made our 14th. Pilgrimage since our establishment in Ireland in 1986. We travelled to many of the sites associated with Jesus and shall meet local Christians in Taybeh, Birzeit in Israel and Palestine and Mafraq and Safout in Jordan. Our association with these towns is underpinned by our financial contributions and commitments to various projects in those towns.

Members will also meet the Patriarch and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land.

In the Holy Land the cessation of Pilgrimages in 2020, 2021 and part of 2022 due to Covid  particularly affected the economy and consequently the livelihoods of its residents, especially in States where there is no social protection systems. This Lieutenancy participated in a special appeal raising over €2m to alleviate the enormous crisis in the region.

The Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin has spoken about the implications of membership of the Order: “It could be said in all truth that the members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre are like “ambassadors” of the Holy Land. In fact, in addition to living their own Christian faith and manifesting adherence to the Catholic Church in the environments in which they live and work – in which sense all the baptized are called to be “ambassadors of Christ” (see 2 Cor 5:20) – they promote initiatives in favour of the Holy Places in the parishes and in the dioceses they belong to. Therefore, members of the Equestrian Order are asked not only to promote the collection of funds for the ecclesial realities present in the Holy Land, but also to pray and work so that peace prevails over divisions and violence.

We are thus an Order of service and this requires of us all an active interior life, support  to our local Church and our local parish, and to avail of every opportunity, according to circumstances, to evangelise. As Pope Francis told us in 2018 “You are called to place the evangelical love of neighbour as the central and final aim of your works, to bear witness to the goodness and care with which God loves everyone”.

The Irish Lieutenancy has over 200 members who meet regularly in Knock, Belfast and other locations, to participate in the Eucharist, to update themselves with developments in the Holy Land and to witness to the Faith. In normal circumstances women and men are admitted at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth.

Deus lo Vult – Mar is toil le Dia – God Wills It


Peter Durnin