The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a lay, charity and apolitical organization of Knights and Ladies, which is also open to clerics. It is under the personal protection of the Sovereign Pontiff. Released from the dual obligation of accepting only nobles and of compulsory dubbing in Jerusalem, the Order is open to Catholics of both sexes. The Order has presently about 23,000 members throughout the world.
Unlike the Hospitallers of the Order of Malta and the Teutonic Order, some of whose members take ecclesiastical vows, the only obligation the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre have to fulfill is to engage themselves to respect the general objectives of the Order, namely:
The Order takes a number of spiritual initiatives related to the matters for which it is responsible, such as the restoration of the feast of Our Lady of Palestine and the organization of major pilgrimages by the Order.
Thanks to the annual offerings from its members, the Order also looks after the material needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem: building and maintenance of places of worship, buildings for social and charitable purposes (hospices, orphanages, etc.), nurseries, primary, secondary and technical schools which, in all, educate over 20 000 students, social and charitable aid for schools and hospitals, and aid to the underprivileged, all in a spirit of ecumenism and tolerance.
The management of the Order in Rome is financed through its own resources so that all the monetary contributions from Knights and Ladies throughout the world can be allocated to the needs of the Holy Land.
The Pope entrusts responsibility for the Order to a Cardinal who bears the title of Grand Master. He holds all necessary powers except the power to amend the constitution, which is the prerogative of the Sovereign Pontiff. Since March 15th 2012, the Grand Master is His Eminence, the Most Reverend Cardinal Edwin Frederick O'Brien, of American nationality and born in New York.
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a legal entity in international law, with headquarters and administrative office in Rome, at the Monastery of San Onofrio. After several amendments, the constitution was reformed and approved by the Holy Father on July 8th 1977, giving it the structure that we know today.
The Consulta is a meeting of all the Lieutenants that the Grand Master convenes in Rome every five years. The last Consulta was held in December 1998. Following the consultation on the renewal of the Order, the Grand Magisterium has decided that a "Mini Consulta" would be held annually in America for the Lieutenants of the Americas, and in Europe for the Lieutenants of the countries in the rest of the world covering Europe, Asia, Australia and Oceania. The purpose for these meetings is to allow a dialogue and exchange between the Lieutenants in order to ensure a homogeneous continuity of the Lieutenancies from different countries.
The Cardinal Grand Master delegates the responsibility for regional organizations to Lieutenants whom he appoints himself, on the advice of the Grand Magisterium. The Lieutenants are responsible, in their territories, for achieving the main objectives of the Order: development of the Order locally, program to help members increase their Faith, and organization of moral and material aid for Christian communities in the Holy Land.
On September 16th 1997, 109 years almost to the day after His Holiness Pius IX authorized the admission in the Order and the concession of the cross to Ladies who have served the Church with particular merit, Lady Commander Theresa Antonia Mayrink Veiga Frering, from the Lieutenancy of Rio de Janerio (Brazil) became the first Lady in the history of the Order to be named Lieutenant.
The Order is present in about fifty countries and regions: Brazil, Russia France, Belgium, Germany, England and Wales, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Monaco, Switzerland, Scotland, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, Gibraltar, United States, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Australia, Taiwan, Philippines, Guam and South Africa.