By Hannah Brockhaus
Pope Francis lamented the innocent deaths in Israel and Palestine during a meeting Thursday with a Catholic order of knighthood that supports the Holy Land.
“We are sadly witnessing tragedy unfolding in the very places where the Lord lived, where he taught us through his humanity to love, forgive, and do good to all,” the pope said Nov. 9. “And instead we see them torn apart by tremendous suffering that especially affects so many innocents, so many innocent dead.”
Francis said he is spiritually united with the leaders of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem as they are meeting in Rome this week.
You “certainly live this consultation meeting sharing the great sorrow of the Mother Church of Jerusalem and imploring the gift of peace,” he said.
Also known as the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, the order is a lay institution under the protection of the Holy See whose first mention in historical records dates to 1336.
Today, the charitable group has approximately 30,000 members in almost 40 countries and is dedicated to supporting the Church in the Holy Land.
The order met Pope Francis in the midst of their weeklong “consultation,” a gathering of the lieutenants, magistral delegates, and bishops grand prior, which usually takes place every four years.
Pope Francis is the order’s sovereign while the grand master is Cardinal Fernando Filoni. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, is the order’s grand prior.
The theme of the 2023 consultation is “formation.”
“Initial and ongoing, practical and spiritual formation: These are four guidelines that we can see represented in the sign of the cross, which stands out clearly on your cloaks and animates your spirituality,” the pope said.
“In every age, even ours, marked by the technocratic paradigm, there is much need for people who practice charity with intelligence and imagination,” he said. “Therefore, I urge you to continue your work in this style and faithfully transmit it in the various stages of formation.”
“We think that formation is an essential point, first of all to understand what we are and what we are doing,” Filoni told EWTN News ahead of the consultation.
“We understand that Jesus gave to the Church, which was born on the Resurrection, the capacity to continue the mission,” the grand master said after a press conference on Oct. 31.
“This mission,” he continued, “is to take care of the Gospel in the whole world. But there is also another special mission: to take care of this land, the community where [Jesus] started preaching and where he left to us also the poor, the people, those who are in need. Who will take care of them, of this Mother Church?”
The cardinal recalled the “very dramatic” situation in Palestine and Israel, and noted that the order, while outside the conflict, has the role of giving support to all, Christians and non-Christians alike.
“No one abandons his home where he was born, where he lived, where his mother is. So we, too, through our order, intend to take care of this Mother Church,” he said.