Purposes & Membership of the Order

Under its Papal Constitution, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre is a legal entity in Canon Law: as a Religious (but not Pontifical) Order of Knighthood, it is one of only two such recognised by the Holy See (the other is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta).


The purposes of the Order as stated in its Constitution are:

  • To strengthen in its members the practice of Christian life, in absolute fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff and according to the teachings of the Church, observing as its foundation the principles of charity of which the order is a fundamental means for assistance to the Holy Land;
  • To sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with which the Order maintains traditional ties;
  • To support the preservation and propagation of the Faith in those lands, interesting in this work the Catholics scattered throughout the world, united in charity by the symbol of the Order, and also all brother Christians;
  • To sustain the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

The Order's purposes being strictly religious and charitable, it does not participate in any activities of a political character — a principle of particular importance in the context of the continuing political problems in the Holy Land.


Membership of the Order is by invitation only; it is offered to Roman Catholic men and women, lay or clerical, aged over 25, whose record of service to the Church and community indicates that they can be expected to make a significant contribution to the Order's work. As such it should be seen not as an honour but rather as a privileged opportunity for service.


The Order has some 30,000 members (Knights and Dames) in almost 40 countries. It is led by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien (Grand Master), Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa (Pro-Grand Prior), and the officers and members of the the Grand Magisterium, who comprise the international government based in Rome. 


Each country or (in larger countries) region has its own Lieutenancy, led by a Lieutenant appointed by the Cardinal Grand Master. The Lieutenancy of England and Wales was established in 1954.






His Excellency Michael Byrne, Lieutenant of England and Wales, is received by Pope Francis in the presence of the Cardinal Grand Master at the Vatican, 16 November 2018


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