Members of the Grand Mastery and Lieutenants,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I give my welcome to you all, who represent the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. In particular, I greet Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order, and I thank him for the words he addressed to me on behalf of all. I greet the Grand Prior, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins.
You are gathered in Rome on the occasion of the Order’s World Consultation, which is convoked every five years to reflect on the situation of the Catholic community in the Holy Land, to assess the activities carried out and to establish directives for the future. Held contemporaneously is the International Pilgrimage, which witnesses the participation of more than 2,000 people [as the number of pilgrims continued to grow, it would seem an updated figure was not provided to the Holy Father; the first number I had last week was 3,000; yesterday the Grand Magisterium was aware of more than 3,500 Knights and Ladies, out of a total of 23,000 members worldwide]. I thank you for your visit and wish to express my appreciation and encouragement for the initiatives of solidarity that the Order promotes in favor of the Holy Places, and which in the last years have been developed and expanded. In this Year of Faith, your pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle Peter is marked by prayer and catechesis on the subject of faith. Beginning from these elements, I would like to be guided by three words, which I already proposed at the beginning of my ministry, but which can offer motives for reflection also to the activity of your Order. The three words are: journey, build and confess.
Journey. You are living the experience of pilgrimage, which is a great symbol of human and Christian life. Every one of us can be “errant” [during the audience, the live translator used the word "rambler" to express one without direction] or “pilgrim”: either errant or pilgrim. The times we are living witness many “errant” people, because they are deprived of an ideal of life and are often incapable of giving meaning to events of the world. With the sign of pilgrimage, you show you will not to be “errant.” Your journey is in history, in a world in which the boundaries are ever more widened, many barriers fall and our ways are linked ever more closely to those of others. Be witnesses of the profound meaning, of the light that faith gives; know how to preserve the great richness of values, of the wisdom of the past, but living intensely in the present, committed in our today, with a look to the future, opening horizons of hope with your work to give a human face to society.
And here is the second word: build. To journey to build the community, above all with love. The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem has an almost age-old history: yours is one of the most ancient still active welfare and charitable Orders. Instituted for the custody of the Holy Sepulcher, it has enjoyed special attention from the Bishops of Rome. To build with charity, with compassion, with love. And, in fact, your pilgrimage also has a charitable end, in favor of brothers and sisters of the Holy Land, especially the neediest, of those who are living moments of suffering, tension and fear. And also of our Christian brothers who suffer so much. To them I address with great affection a greeting and embrace; to all – Christians and non-Christians --, I assure my daily prayer.
However, your journey to build stems from confessing the faith ever more profoundly; it grows from the constant commitment to nourish your spiritual life, from permanent formation for an ever more genuine and coherent Christian life. This is an important point for each one of you and for the whole Order, so that everyone will be helped to deepen his/her adherence to Christ: the profession of faith and the witness of charity are closely connected and are the qualifying and forceful points – points of force – of your action. An ancient bond links you to the Holy Sepulcher, perennial memorial of Christ crucified who was laid there and of the Risen Christ who conquered death. May Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected really be the center of your existence and of every personal and associative project. May you believe in the redemptive power of the Cross and the Resurrection, to offer hope and peace. In a particular way, the Land of Jesus is not so needy! Faith does not remove us from the responsibilities to which we are all called to assume, but on the contrary, it triggers and drives to a concrete commitment in view of a better society.
May the Lord help you to be always ambassadors of peace and love among brothers. He it is who will always render your work more fruitful. May the Virgin of Nazareth assist you in your mission to guard with love the Places where Christ passed doing good and healing. May my Blessing also accompany you, which I impart to you and to the whole Order.