The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and for all the activities and initiatives which are necessary to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land. The contributions made by its members throughout the world are therefore the Patriarchate's institutions' main source of funding.
The Order's support for the Christians in the Holy Land does not just take the form of financial contributions and prayers, important though we recognise that these are. All of the Order's Lieutenancies arrange formal pilgrimages, in the course of which Members do not simply view and explore the Holy Sites, but also have the opportunity to meet the people whom they are supporting and assure them that they are not forgotten.
The Order is charged, in its Constitution:
- 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 which make the Order a fundamental means of 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 its traditional ties.
- To support the preservation and propagation of the Faith in those lands, and promote interest in this work not only among Catholics scattered throughout the world, who are united in charity by the symbol of the Order, but also among all other Christians.
- To uphold the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
STRUCTURE OF THE ORDER
The Order has an established hierarchy. At the top is the Cardinal Grand Master who is appointed directly by the Holy Father, to lead and govern the Order. The Grand Master is assisted by a consultative body, the Grand Magisterium, whose task is to identify and agree with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem the programs and action to be undertaken each year to provide for the Christian institutions and communities in the Holy Land, including the operating methods and timescales. The Presidency of the Grand Magisterium consists of the Governor General, the Vice-Governors General and the Chancellor of the Order: this is the Order’s executive “board”.
The hierarchy then divides into two distinct parts: ecclesiastic and lay. The first, headed by the Chancellor and the Ceremonial Officer, is responsible for the Order’s spiritual development; the second, headed by the Governor General, is responsible for managing the Order. The primary task of the ecclesiastical hierarchy is to define and develop programs and events to be put in place to develop Members’ spirituality. The primary task of the lay hierarchy is to carry out the Order’s social and charitable activities on behalf of the Holy Land.
The Order is subdivided geographically into Lieutenancies, which in turn are divided into Sections. If appropriate, Sections may be further divided into Delegations. The Lieutenant, Section Heads (Presidi in Italy and Sicily) and Delegates (responsible for the Delegations) are accompanied by a parallel ecclesiastical organization consisting of Section and Delegation Priors.
All these offices are operational, conferring substantial administrative responsibilities; they are not honorary titles. The normal term of office is four years, which may be renewed, subject always to the holder carrying out his/her tasks appropriately and effectively. Suitable candidates for each post are suggested by the immediate superior and submitted to those in higher positions and the Grand Magisterium for final approval.
The Order currently (2014) has 56 Lieutenancies and 6 Magistral Delegations (Lieutenancies in the process of formation): 5 in Eastern Europe, 26 in Western Europe, 15 in the US and Canada, 7 in Latin America, 1 in South Africa, and 8 in Australia and the Far East. The total number of active Members in the Order is around 30,000.