By Matthew Lau
Pope Francis inspired the world’s lieutenants during a quinquennial meeting in Rome on 16 November, influencing them to place the evangelical love of thy neighbour as the final aim of their works.
The Holy Father encouraged the continuous work of the Consulta of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem during his address in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Rome.
There, at the See of Peter, he blessed icons of Our Lady of Persecuted Christian for the lieutenants of the Order, to motivate its members to greater prayer and sacrifice for their brothers and sisters in the Holy Land (and other parts of the world) who suffer persecution because of the faith in Christ.
All five Australian lieutenants attended the conference, including Western Australia’s Lieutenant Jack Gardner KC*HS.
“In each lieutenancy, the elected lieutenant has to show leadership in bringing members to a deeper appreciation of their faith and active witness; also their sworn allegiance to their Prior (the Archbishop) as representative of the Holy Father,” Lt Gardner explained to The Record.
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is both a Papal Order of the Church and a charity.
It invites membership from Catholics deemed by their Parish Priest to be practicing Catholics and who are active in parish life. Members are expected to continue this work after becoming members.
At the general assembly on 16 November, Pope Francis greeted the whole family of Knights and Dames from across the world, showing his sincere gratitude for their numerous spiritual and charitable activities that they carry out for the benefit of the Holy Land peoples.
“I know that this week you have focused on the role of local leaders, or lieutenants, present in over 30 nations and areas of the world where your Order is active,” Pope Francis said.
“Certainly, the continuous growth of the Order depends on your incessant and ever renewed commitment. In this regard, it is important not to forget that the main purpose of your Order lies in the spiritual growth of its members.”
The dramatic situation of Christians who are persecuted and killed in ever-increasing numbers, the Holy Father alluded, and it happen in front of the eyes of the whole world “which too often turns its gaze to the other side”.
“In addition to their martyrdom in their blood there is also their ‘white martyrdom,’ such as that which occurs in democratic countries when freedom of religion is restricted.
“Alongside your work in favour of people so harshly tried, I urge you to always associate the prayer, to constantly invoke Our Lady, whom you venerate with the title of ‘Our Lady of Palestine’,” he continued.
“She is the caring Mother and the Help of Christians, for whom she obtains strength and comfort from the Lord in sorrow.”
Grand Master Cardinal Edwin O’Brien spoke on behalf of the Order, thanking the Holy Father for his blessing.
“We seek ways of how we can more effectively serve and support the needs of the Church in the Holy Land in serving the pastoral, spiritual and humanitarian needs of our fellow Christians there,” Cardinal O’Brien said.
“Our support goes especially to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, but also to independent Catholic institutions and to the other sui iuris Churches. Let me underline that all the schools, universities and health-care centres that we support are open to everyone regardless of their religion or the community to which they belong.
“In addition to prayerful and material support our members are pledged to regular pilgrimages to the Holy Land to show our solidarity with the faithful in their daily trials and challenges,” the Grand Master added.
Membership in the Order is predicated on faith development through love of the historical source of the Church’s teachings, the original Christians of the Holy Land as well as the Holy places, and in particular the Empty Tomb.
Devotion to Mary is an integral part of the Order’s practice – Our lady Queen of Palestine, and now Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians.