Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Canada 50 years

  • October 12, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - Few people would think there is any connection between 21st-century Toronto and the 11th-century Crusades. Yet on Oct. 4, a group of close to 100 men and women gathered to celebrate just such a link.

The members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, otherwise known as the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, gathered in the Newman Centre chapel to take part in the Eucharist and mark the 50th anniversary of their group’s existence in Canada.

Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, himself a member of the order, presided at the Eucharist on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi and offered his congratulations. He later gave the speech at the dinner following the Mass.

The Toronto Lieutenancy, as it is called, had its birth in 1957 when Cardinal James McGuigan, archbishop of Toronto, invested the first group of Knights. Among them was Alfred De Manche, an editor at The Catholic Register. Though he couldn’t make the Oct. 4 event because of illness, he sent his recollections in a letter that was read out at the dinner.

The Knights trace their origins to Godfrey of Bouillon, a Frankish duke who was the leader of the First Crusade to take back the Holy Land from its Turkish occupiers. In 1099, after expelling the Turks from Jerusalem, he created the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and soon afterwards knighted his leading warriors.

Throughout the centuries the Knights continued to exist, though they were eventually drawn not from the warrior classes but from prominent Catholics in countries around the world. Today there are 25,000 Knights in dozens of countries, all of whom must be approved for membership by the Vatican. Their investiture into the Order is a papal honour though it is usually conferred by the local bishop.

The Order maintains its link to the Holy Land today through the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Each member also pledges to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at least once in their lifetimes.

Their main role today is to raise funds to help the Catholic Church in the traditional Holy Land, now Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories, to maintain itself, run schools and other community services. The Latin Patriarchate teaches 18,000 students in 40 schools.

Each year the Toronto Lieutenancy, with its 250 members headed by Lieutenant Clare Beingessner, sends about $100,000 to the Order for the work of the Latin Patriarchate.

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