Published March 15, 2012
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, Southeastern Lieutenancy of the United States, is scheduled to hold its annual meeting on Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21, at the Intercontinental Buckhead Hotel and Holy Spirit Church.
Some 500 members of the ancient order are expected to attend the weekend conference. The events include a memorial Mass on Friday, April 20, at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as the principal celebrant. In the evening there will be a reception and dinner dance. On Saturday, April 21, the events include a meeting, Mass and ceremony of investiture followed by a formal banquet.
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions in the Roman Catholic Church. Its known roots date to the 11th century and the first Crusades under the Crusades’ leader, Godfrey de Bouillion, in conquering Jerusalem. The warriors received knighthoods for their actions at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. They constituted a guard of honor at the shrine and were approved as an order by Pope Pascal II in 1113. Today, the order has approximately 26,000 members, known as knights and ladies, and clergy knights in 52 countries. There are 15 lieutenancies in the United States and Canada.
The order’s purpose is to strengthen in its members the practice of Christian life, in absolute fidelity to the pope and according to the teaching of the church, observing its foundation of the principles of charity, which makes the order a fundamental means of assistance to the Holy Land.
The order’s mission faces a challenge with an exodus of Christians leaving the Holy Land. The Christian population runs only as high as 4 percent and continues to decline. Those who remain can only survive if their skills are high. That is why the order has financed construction of 40 schools in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and continues to fund at least part of the operating cost. Today 19,000 students attend these schools. The order also builds and supports parishes, hospitals and clinics and provides housing, food and jobs for Christians in the Holy Land.
The order is under the patronage of the Holy See. It is governed by a papally appointed cardinal, Cardinal Edward F. O’Brien, who is grand master, and the Latin-rite patriarch of Jerusalem, his Beatitude, Fouad Twal, who is grand prior.
The Southern region is made up of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina with a membership of more than 1,600 knight and ladies and 250 clergy knights. The grand prior is Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans. The Atlanta diocesan representative to the Council of the Southeastern Lieutenancy is George W. Levert. There are approximate 150 knights, ladies, and clergy knights of the Atlanta section.