Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
Investiture Dinner Speech
for the
Magistral Delegation of the EOHSJ for Canada-Atlantic

Sunday, 2 November 2002
Halifax, Nova Scotia
H.E. John Carmen Piunno, KGCHS
Lieutenant, USA Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy

What it means to be a Knight or Dame of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

Your Excellencies, Magistral Delegate, Reverend Fathers, fellow Knights and Dames, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me say that I am more than honored by your request to learn more about the Order from me. I am overwhelmed. The purpose of my talk this evening is to discuss what it means to be a Knight or Dame of the Holy Sepulchre. :

Introduction: Put simply, a Knight or Dame is to be a witness in Jerusalem, and throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Act 1.8). These words are taken from the Preamble of the Order's Constitution. It also states that Knighthood is defined as self-discipline, generosity and courage. "Whosoever does not have the firm willingness to develop and deepen these traits in his life will never be able to become a true Knight." :

The preamble further states that exemplary moral conduct and true Christian feeling are the prime requisites for admission to the Order. The practice of Christian faith must be shown in the heart of one's family at work in obedience to the Holy Father, and in involvement in Christian activities both in one's parish and Diocese. Pope John Paul II often uses the Latin phrase from scripture "Duc in altum." Put out into the deep. Do not be afraid. How grateful I am as I stand before you. What a wonderful part of my life the Holy Sepulchre has become.

But what is a Knight or Dame? And what does it mean to be a Knight or Dame of the Holy Sepulchre? "A Knight is a man who intends to place himself at the service of a noble and difficult cause, a pure and arduous ideal; fighting evil, promoting good, defending the weak and the oppressed against injustice."

In 1984 the late Cardinal Agostino Casaroli explained that "Becoming a Knight does not mean receiving a title of honor, even though it is well deserved, it presupposes a solemn commitment." Additionally, I would like to add that Knighthood is not a birthright, it is defined by one's actions.

The Identity of the Order :
The Order as you may know is governed by the ordinary regulations of Canon Law, the disposition of the Church, and the rules of its own Constitution. The Order is a Juridical Person as stated in the Apostolic Letters of Pope Pius XII, Blessed John XXIII, and more recently by re-script of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. :

Origins of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem:
To present a history of the Order's 900 years tonight would deservedly earn me a trip to your gallows! Even I would expire in such an effort. However, I should say that our history is replete with wonder. Please, when you can, find time to read about the Order. The following short description of some important dates will provide the basis of my presentation. :

The origins of the Order can be traced back to Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Brabant and leader of the First Crusade, who captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in 1099. From its beginnings, the aim of the Order was the protection of the Holy Places and of the pilgrims who visited them. Following the approval of Pope Callistus II in 1122, the primary mission of the knights was to defend the Church Universal, protect the City of Jerusalem, guard the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, and to look after pilgrims.

From these formative years, the Order moved into its second period from 1291 to 1847. During this time the Franciscan Custody of Mount Zion was established in Jerusalem and the Guardian, also known as the Custodian, was the sole authority representing the Holy See in Palestine. This period is generally referred to as the Golden Period of the Order as it flourished throughout England and Europe. In 1489 Pope Innocent VIII provisionally united us with the Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem and of Rhodes. And In 1496 the Order was re-established in its independent existence by Pope Alexander VI.

Next we jump ahead to more modern times. In 1847 Pope Pius IX reinstated the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Patriarch once again became the "ecclesiastical authority" of the Order with the title of Grand Master. Yes, these are all strange titles or names you will learn in time. In 1868 Pope Pius IX instituted three classes of knights, and in 1871 the Countess Maria Lomas became the first woman received into the Order. In 1907 Pius X again reserved for the Pope the office of Grand Master. And in 1940, Pope Pius XII entrusted the Order to Cardinal Canali. Subsequent revisions to the constitution were promulgated in 1949, which made the Order a legal person under canon law.

The common thread during each of these periods has been the care and protection of the Holy Places ----- the 900-year old mission of the Order remains unchanged. The responsibilities of the Knights and Dames then, and now, remain constant.

Our current Vicar of Christ, John Paul II, has given the Order a two-fold modern day mission of "strengthening the Christian life of its members, and supporting the Christian presence in the Holy Land." He, as you know, is a man so determined to strengthen the spirituality of our Church. His recent trip to Canada was a sign to the world that spirituality is critically important beginning with our young people. Our current Grand Master His Eminence, Cardinal Furno has also said the same. In the first instance we are called upon to strengthen the Christian life of our members. Our second task is to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land. We do this not with guns or other military weapons, but with brotherly support of the Christians living there. (By the way, although not using military weapons we do use some of the weapons of the 21st century such as e-mails, faxes to our elected officials, and our checkbooks).

And now to the specific features which define the identity of a Knight or Dame of the Holy Sepulchre. In all the points I have mentioned here the authoritative teachings of the Holy Father and the Church are of the greatest importance. Catholic social doctrine provides a clear and concrete impetus. "The three weapons for this struggle are the primacy of the human person, the priority of the common good, and the acknowledgment of the creature called to be God's helper in the work of creation." These points must be factored into what it means to be a Knight or Dame in today's world.


My message this evening seeks to emphasize a number of issues relating to the life of the Order and what it means to be a Knight or Dame of the Holy Sepulchre. One could summarize by saying the answer is very obvious and simple. But to fully understand the answer, one must first realize that we are a cultural oddity. As good Catholics we do not fit into many current cultural trends --- especially in such an unbelieving world. Being loyal to the Church and her teachings is a modern challenge to all of us. We are an ancient Order in modern times. The Order is not "outdated," or, as some have said, an "accident of history". We are not accidents! "We are not museum keepers, but keepers of living stones." With us chivalry has not died. For us it is one way of teaching values to our world.

To those who were just invested, today is a signature event in your lives. In joining us -- Bishop, Priest, Knight and Dame -- we are a bonded cadre setting the example for others about what it is to be active in our faith. Again, I turn to my days with the Jesuit Fathers and Saint Ignatius. He had his followers kneel before him and he touched their shoulders with a sword. It was a sign. It was a solemn moment of consecration, if you will, to a most extraordinary life. Today you have experienced a similar moment. We are "Soldiers of Christ" who do not hesitate to give our lives to the defense and guardianship of the Church.

Investiture is like renewing your baptismal promises as we do every year at the Great Vigil on Holy Saturday. As Catholics you must never waiver in your fidelity to the Holy Father. Remember that your solemn promise is to uphold the Catholic Faith. This point is essential.

Our battle is not for the possession of a particular city --- it is for the soul of the world. We are living in a world hurdling toward war. It is a war between good and evil. The battlefield is vast and covered with innocent victims in need of our aid. The courage, zeal, and perseverance required by today's Knights and Dames clearly equal that required of the Crusaders. Becoming a Knight or Dame of the Holy Sepulchre means taking on a holy mission, before God and man.

And so I will say finally, a Knight or Dame of the Holy Sepulchre is a messenger of Christ, always reaching out, always setting an example, and always embracing the Eucharist.

Thank you again for inviting me to Halifax. It is an honor to have been asked to be your speaker this evening. May the Holy Spirit now fill your life so that you leave here charged with determination to be that Messenger of Christ to our Church and our world. I pray that God will bless you because you have willingly accepted a unique call of service, prayer and fidelity. Please, pray for me and my work and faithfulness to the Church and our Order.

And now in the ancient language of the Church, I will reiterate my solemn promise: Servio Ecclesiae. Servio Summo Pontifici. Et servio Magno Magistro nostro - - - - Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.

The Nature of Membership
An Article by H.E. Russell Kendall on the Importance of the Work of the Order in the Holy Land
Study of the Situation in the Bethlehem Area
Investiture Speech (1999) by Bro. David Carroll, FSC, Ph.D.
Saints and Beati Proper to the Order
Various Insignia of the Order
History of the Order
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