Cardinal Foley to Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher

"The Situation of Our Fellow Christians Has Become Ever More Stressful"

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ROME, DEC. 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Cardinal John Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, delivered today at the beginning of a week-long planning session for the order. This consulta, which takes place every five years, will conclude on Friday with a papal audience.



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My brothers and sister in Christ:

It is a pleasure and an honor for me to welcome you to the Consulta of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre -- my first and, I am sure, the first for many of you.

The purpose of the Consulta, as you know, is not only to assess what has happened during the past five years but also and especially to plan prayerfully and carefully for the next five years.

As you also know, I am very new to this work. While I have been a member of the Order since 1991, invested motu proprio by Giuseppe Cardinal Caprio, and have been faithful in paying my dues to the Eastern Lieutenancy in the United States, I discovered only last week that I had been enrolled by Cardinal Caprio as a member of the Lieutenancy of Central Italy. I apologize to the Central Italian Lieutenancy for any unintended failure on my part to be more active with them -- even though my first investiture of new Knights and Ladies was very happily in Rome with them and for them.

In spite of my obvious lack of experience, however, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI appointed me in June 2007 as Grand Master of our Order, and I am truly honored to be with you in reflecting on how we can help more effectively and more extensively our fellow Christians in the Holy Land and on how we can thus deepen our spiritual lives in union with Jesus Christ whose life, death and resurrection, in the land we seek to serve, made it truly holy.

I am very grateful to my eminent predecessor, Cardinal Carlo Furno, for his kindness and encouragement, and to the officials and staff of the Grand Magisterium for their gracious reception and cooperation. Obviously, I have worked most closely with our Governor General, Pier Luigi Parola, our Vice Governor General, Adolfo Rinaldi, our Chancellor, Msgr. Juan Dorronsoro, our master of ceremonies, Msgr. Francis Kelly, and our new Vice Chancellor, Father Hans Brouwers, an old friend and a former student of mine, whom Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has been kind enough to assign to the service of our Order in Rome. I am happy to announce that we have a new Assessor, Archbishop Joseph DeAndrea, former Nuncio in Kuwait. Archbishop DeAndrea, while a native of the Diocese of Ivrea in northern Italy, the same home diocese as Cardinal Furno, was a priest of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, my own home state, so he is well equipped to serve many people and many cultures. Welcome, Archbishop DeAndrea!

I am also grateful to so many of you who have received me so kindly for investiture ceremonies. I am attempting to get to as many lieutenancies as possible not only for the ceremonies but also to observe what is being done for the vitality of the Order and on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. As those of you who are lieutenants know, I have already had the pleasure of being in all of the Italian lieutenancies except Sicily, and in Switzerland, France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Ireland and the northeastern and eastern lieutenancies in the United States. Just last weekend, I was in Liverpool, England. Governor General Parola and I also met last summer in Toronto with the lieutenants of North America. I have been very favorably impressed, and I thank you not only for your kindness to me but also and especially for what you have been doing for the Holy Land.

My own appointment as Grand Master practically coincided with a change in the leadership of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which we are pledged to assist and serve.

I have been privileged to visit the Holy Land twice this year, once in January when Patriarch Michel Sabbah was still in office and once in June for the ceremonies of succession of our new Patriarch Fouad Twal. As you know, the Latin Patriarch is by statute the Grand Prior of our Order, and I am delighted that Patriarch Twal will be able to be with us during this entire week. I want to thank Patriarch Twal and his predecessor, Patriarch Emeritus Sabbah, for their great kindness to me on the occasion of my two visits to the Holy Land this year. They enabled me to see at first hand the difference which our Order makes in the Holy Land in the number and quality of the schools, parishes and charitable institutions which we help to support.

As you know, both Patriarch Emeritus Sabbah and Patriarch Twal are natives of the Holy Land; Patriarch Emeritus Sabbah comes from Nazareth in Galilee and Patriarch Twal from Madabah in Jordan. Both are alumni of the excellent seminary in Beit Jala, which receives a great deal of support from our Order and which needs and deserves far more from us. I was very favorably impressed not only by the quality of the clergy of the Latin Patriarchate but also by the quality and spirituality of the seminarians, many of whom make great sacrifices to continue their priestly studies, especially since many of them are unable to return home during holiday periods, because of restrictions on their mobility imposed by Israeli authorities.

Before I became Grand Master of this Order, I had visited the Holy Land five times -- the first time in 1965, before the Six-Day War, and the last time in 1977, before the Intifadah. I was a journalist, so I had been trained to observe and to ask probing and sometimes uncomfortable questions, especially of civil authorities. I can only say that the situation of our fellow Christians has become ever more stressful. Especially in the Palestinian Territories, their opportunities for housing, for employment, for travel, and even for access to their land have become increasingly more difficult.

It would be presumptuous of me to announce any new program or new initiatives at this time when I should be profiting from your experience and your wisdom, and I look forward to hearing your ideas.

It is my intention to be with you every morning during the first session, and I will try to go from language group to language group. I also hope to be present for each of the evening general sessions. During the rest of the day, however, it is my hope to meet with each one of you privately, to get to know you and to hear your concerns, your hopes and your plans.

During the week, we shall be privileged to hear from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, under whose jurisdiction the Latin Patriarchate falls. Cardinal Sandri has even kindly postponed a major trip he has to make to be with us. We shall also hear from Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who is well known for his scriptural expertise and for his television ministry here in Italy, and from Msgr. Robert Stern, the president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, who is a devoted member of our Order and who just observed the golden anniversary of his priestly ordination.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, will also honor us with an address based upon the policy of the Holy See regarding the Holy Land and upon his vision of our work for the Church.

Finally, we will be honored on Friday by an address by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who will kindly receive us in audience at the Vatican and who will inform us of his hopes for our Order.

You can see that our week will be quite full and challenging, but I am sure that it will be fruitful and satisfying. We have deliberately chosen a place for our meeting which has a beautiful chapel and a well equipped meeting room, even though our personal quarters may be somewhat more austere than those to which you may have been accustomed. We deliberately wanted to save money, so that we could have more resources available to help our fellow Christians in the Holy Land.

Your response to the preparations for this meeting has been most edifying, and I hope that you may be able to return to your Lieutenancies with a renewed sense of dedication and with the information and personal experiences necessary to inspire your present members and to recruit new Knights and Ladies dedicated to helping the descendants of the original Christians in the land made holy by the presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you and may God bless our reflections and our work!