Members at the Holy Sepulchre

The specific mission assigned by the Holy Father to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (the Order) is that of animating zeal in the ecclesial community towards the Land of Jesus and sustaining the Catholic Church and the Christian presence there.

The Order has its origins in the aftermath of the First Crusade when the knights of Europe answered the call to aid the Holy Land and Holy Places.
To this day, it is one of only two Catholic chivalric orders which are mandated by the Pope to have a defined purpose.
For Christians there is no city more famous, no region better known than the City of Jerusalem and Palestine.

With these words Blessed Pope Pius IX began his Nulla Celebrior which, on 23rd July 1847, restored the ancient See of Jerusalem and appointed Giuseppe Valerga as the new Latin Patriarch .

Candidates for admission to the Order must be practising Catholics of the Latin rite in good standing. The prerogative of selecting candidates for admission to the Order belongs in the first place to the Lieutenants. The power of admitting candidates into the Order lies with the Cardinal Grand Master. All members of the Order perform their service without payment.

The successor of Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, as sovereign of the Order, gave approval to the admittance of Dames on the 3rd August 1888. Since then ladies from various countries of the world began to play a decisive role in the Holy Land. Today, Dames make up about one third of the members of our Lieutenancies and Magistral delegations.
In addition, many of the Order’s structures are now led by women. Dames have the same rights and duties as Knights.

The Order has a Constitution, most recently revised in 2020, befitting its status as a Religious Order of Knighthood approved by the Holy See. Its purposes are strictly religious, chivalric, and charitable.

Members in Mayo


The Order and consequently individual members must foster:

  • Personal renunciation through self-discipline, witness to one’s faith and zeal for good.
  • Generosity, in the exercise of their solidarity to benefit the populations of the Holy Land.
  • Courage in the struggle for justice and peace.
  • Solidarity through the prayer and generous help of its members. This is expressed principally in support for the Latin
  • Patriarchate and contributes to the maintenance of religious, charitable, educational, cultural and social institutions, as well as activities that are specific to the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
  • Concern for the Christian presence in the Holy Land, which is defined as Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Cyprus. This commitment includes both the defence of the Church in loco, providing financial contributions for the Holy Places as well, and the survival and the continuity of the Christian communities.
  • Members are obliged to be actively committed and take part, with enthusiasm and generosity, in activities in the field of charity, evangelisation and ecumenism promoted by their local Churches. Members must be aware of the spiritual and ecclesial meaning of their membership of the Order and be witnesses to ties not only with the universal Church and the Holy Land but also with the dioceses and parishes to which they belong.
  • Cooperation with other bodies and organisations, whether religious or secular, which share similar goals and objectives in the Holy Land.

The Order does this through an estimated 28,000 members (Knights and Dames) in 50 countries.

The Order’s governing body is situated in Rome and consists of the Cardinal Grand Master appointed by the Supreme Pontiff and an international council, the Grand Magisterium. Each country or (in larger countries) region has its own Lieutenancy, led by a Lieutenant who is appointed by the Cardinal Grand Master and holds office for 4 years. The Grand Magisterium plays a critical role in organising the Order, and ensures the effective provision of its assistance across the lands of Christ’s birth and mission.


The insignia of the Order – consisting of a large crutch cross surrounded by four small Greek crosses – symbolically represent the five wounds of Christ, which are like “the Doors of Heaven”. This emblem is not a decoration, but a mission, the spiritual sense of which is clarified by the teachings of the Church.


The Lieutenancy of Ireland was established in 1986 and has approximately 200 members.
It has adopted as its Mission Statement:
to support, by our Prayers, our presence on Pilgrimage and our Financial Contributions, principally through the Latin Patriarch, the Christian Community in the Holy Land ’.

Clergy & members after Mass in Belfast

It meets nationally once a year, usually at St. Patrick’s Pontifical College, Maynooth. Throughout the year there are regional events, and the Order is frequently invited to be present at important diocesan occasions. The spiritual life of the Lieutenancy is developed through its Members’ commitment to daily prayer, organised Days of Recollection, attendance at Holy Mass as well as the annual celebrations for the Feast of Our Lady, Queen of Palestine.

Members are also committed to making pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Our pilgrimages to the land of Christ’s birth and mission renew and deepen our faith whilst visibly demonstrating our solidarity with our fellow Christians there. A pilgrimage is planned to travel every 3 years.


The Lieutenancy is a registered Charity (number 20021399 for those resident in the Republic / IE0004 for those resident in Northern Ireland), and reports to the Charities Regulator.
It has little by way of overheads, costs often being borne by members personally.
In the last forty years this Lieutenancy has provided more than €5,250,000 to help fund projects across Israel, Jordan
and Palestine.

This support is vital as part of the millions of euros that the Order as a whole provides each year in support of the Church and its clergy as well as social, educational, and humanitarian projects.
By way of example: the Latin Patriarchate maintains schools in Israel, Palestine and Jordan teaching c. 18,800 pupils of whom approximately 60% are Christians and 40% non-Christians. Such ‘mixed-faith’ schools are beacons of hope for those children’s future.

Opening of a school extension in Jordan

In Jordan, the Patriarchate through its schools, the local Christian Community and its social support services has had to respond in love and charity to aid those fleeing the conflicts and religious persecution across the Middle East.

The challenge to the Order continues daily and meeting it depends on its members and supporters.
Both today, and tomorrow: the need to support them remains.
It cannot be understated, nor should it be forgotten.

Map and list of projects supported by the Lieutenancy of Ireland
Map and list of projects supported by the Lieutenancy

The Order is also involved in other projects, including providing social housing complexes, seminary support and social care.

To obtain further information about the work of the Order please send an email to: