Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 6, 2004
Jerusalem order honours bishops
Collins, Bouchard invested into group that protects Christian interest in the Holy Land
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Two Alberta bishops signified their support for Christians in the Holy Land during a simple ceremony at the Catholic Pastoral Centre Aug. 28.
Archbishop Thomas Collins and St. Paul Bishop Luc Bouchard were invested into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in the ceremony.
Vancouver Archbishop Raymond Roussin celebrated the service by presenting Collins and Bouchard with a folded mozetta and insignia of the order (red cross of Jerusalem), as a symbol of support for the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
"The (order) is most grateful to you for your continuing support of its Christian witness, concerns and apostolate," Roussin said. "In its name, I am happy to confer upon you now the insignia of this worthy order."
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is an association of lay faithful, open to include ecclesiastical members, who are committed to supporting the diminishing number of Christians in the holy land.
It has been in existence for more than 900 years, when a group of knights was originally entrusted with the protection of the religious Chapter of Canons at the Holy Sepulchre of Christ.
Dr. Declan Lawlor, along with a small group of section representatives from Vancouver, said it is imperative for Christians to understand the mandate of the order. Establishing a presence in Alberta was a tremendous honour, he said.
"It is great to have a section of the order in Alberta," said Lawlor, a Vancouver dentist.
"Our main thrust was to introduce it to take advantage of the strong Catholics in Alberta, particularly in the Edmonton area. They are well known and we should have done this before. This is the inaugural investiture in Edmonton."
Lawlor said about 175,000 Christians live in Israel and Palestine, making up two per cent of the population. This is down from 13 per cent at the beginning of the 20th century. He estimates that by 2020, Christians will represent only 1.6 per cent of the population.
The order is non political. Lawlor believes there is an untapped resource in the Catholic laity to do more to improve the human condition in the world.
"We are losing more and more people because Christians are not favoured for any jobs. They are not favoured with any support from the Palestinian Authority because there are no Christians on the Palestinian Authority.
"Western governments say they help Palestinians but the money doesn't trickle down to the Christians. Our people are left to themselves so we offer our support," he said.
During the ceremony, Bill Connolly was invested as a knight on the recommendation of St. Joseph's Basilica.
Lawlor said the order provides 80 per cent of the budget for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, to aid charitable, cultural and social works of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, including education in parish schools, the seminary in Beit Jala and Bethlehem University.
"In each lay organization in the Church, we have to be an instrument leading to holiness for their members. The primary thing we do is try to increase the spirituality of our members, with the mandate to help the Holy Church."
Collins spent the summer of 1976 in the Holy Land studying Hebrew at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Even then, the dwindling number of Christians was noticeable.
Collins and Bouchard, because they are part of the Catholic hierarchy, each entered the order as a knight commander with star. Regular lay members enter as a knight or lady.
"I very much support this mission," Collins said. "It goes back to the Middle Ages and from the beginning, it has been concerned with protecting the presence of the Christian faith in the Holy Land.
"In our present age, there is a great need for that because in all of the turmoil, the Christian presence is being gradually eliminated.
"We can see this across the Middle East. We see most recently the bombing in Iraq of churches in Baghdad. The Christians are fleeing," he said.
Anyone interested in obtaining more information about the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, is encouraged to speak to their pastor.
Letter to the Editor - 09/20/04