Austria: The Papal Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

At present, there are only three active Orders of Knights that are recognised by the Holy See as institutions under international law, namely the Papal Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Teutonic Order of Knights. However, a reform of the regulations of the Teutonic Order abolished the old style of knights. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre is made up of around 22,000 people around the world, Ladies and Knights, both clergy and laypersons. It is subject to a Grand Master appointed from amongst the cardinals by the Holy Father and resident in Rome. The Grand Prior of the Order is the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, a deliberate continuation of the original tradition. Currently there are 50 national organisations known as Lieutenancies in various countries of the world.The functions of the Order are firstly to consolidate the Christian life of its members and secondly to support Christians in the Holy Land.

Although there have always been knights of the Order in Austria since the 14th century (including very prominent individuals such as the Minnesanger Oswald von Wolkenstein, Emperor Friedrich III or, much later, Emperor Franz Joseph), it was not an active organisation for a long period of time. It was only in 1954 that the Austrian Lieutenancy was successfully established and recognised by the Republic of Austria according to the provisions of the Concordat. The Austrian branch of the Order of Knights takes particular interest in the Catholic parish of Gaza, founded during last century by the Tyrolean priest Georg Gatt. Many of the Christians living there are in extreme poverty and for this reason are assisted and supported wherever possible. The Order's symbol is the Cross of Jerusalem with smaller crosses between the arms. It symbolises the five wounds of Christ and is intended to recall the Order's duties in the Holy Land. Red is seen as the colour of love and the spirit of God.

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