Indianapolis can seem like a world away from Jerusalem.
But last weekend, some 400 Catholics from across the Midwest who strive to be spiritually close to the Church there gathered in Indianapolis to learn more about the plight of Christians in the Holy Land and to pray with Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
They were members—known as knights and ladies—of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, an organization in the Church that dates back nearly 1,000 years.
Today, its worldwide members commit themselves to giving spiritual and financial support for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which oversees the Church in Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.
In a keynote address that he gave on Sept. 30 at the meeting, Patriarch Twal challenged the knights and ladies “to make a difference in the life of the Church.
“Many dismiss the Church as irrelevant,” he said. “Others say it lacks vitality and dynamism. But you are the evidence that the Church is vibrant and alive.”
In particular, Patriarch Twal encouraged the knights and ladies to be advocates for peace in the Holy Land because, he said, America “has the key to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“You have a great responsibility toward the implementation of peace,” he said. “It is important, though, to realize that working hard for true peace is to everyone’s advantage. In our region, the peace is either for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land or for no one.”
During a break at the meeting, Trudy Koci of West Bloomfield, Mich., a member of the order, said that she prays for peace in Jerusalem.
“I love supporting the Church in Israel,” Koci said. “We’re converts to the Church, so we studied the Old Testament very intensely as Protestants.”
Patriarch Twal also asked his listeners to pray for peace in Syria, which has been wracked for more than a year by a bloody civil war.
He also expressed concern about the call that various countries, including the United States, have made for regime change in Syria because the new rulers might not be as favorable to the Christian community there as the current government headed by Bashar al-Assad.
“Syria needs reforms, I am sure,” Patriarch Twal said, “but I’m asking if this violence is the way to have reform in Syria. We don’t want to have Syria as another Iraq. We wait. We pray. We are against any kind of violence.”
The severe challenges faced by the Church in Syria, the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Middle East makes knight Adam Scurti of Steubenville, Ohio, realistic about the potential positive effects of the efforts of the knights and ladies to support the Christians there.
But he knows that they are not working alone.
“I think that God, in his Providence, will take care of them … ,” said Scurti. “God’s in charge, and I do firmly believe that it will be what he wants it to be. We just need to be open to that grace and, hopefully, have the courage to go forward.”
Although the faithful in Jerusalem is reduced in number, Patriarch Twal noted in a homily during a Sept. 30 Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis with the knights and ladies that, as the mother of all local Churches around the world, the Church there continues to be relevant.
“The Church of Jerusalem is the Church from where all the events in the universal Church started and must start again to be authentic,” he said.
Patriarch Twal spoke about the upcoming meeting at the Vatican of the Synod of Bishops, which will have as its theme the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of Christian Faith.”
“Evangelization, to be new, efficient and modern, must go back 21 centuries,” Patriarch Twal said. “[It must] go back to the first Christian community in Jerusalem, known by its love of the Lord, known by its solidarity where everything was held in common among the faithful.”
Mark Ford, a knight of the Holy Sepulchre and member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, helped to organize the meeting of knights and ladies from across the Midwest.
He said that the faith which he strives to live out every day is consciously tied to the Church in Jerusalem.
“As a knight of the Holy Sepulchre, I pray daily for the Church in the Holy Land,” he said. “I offer daily sacrifices so my brothers and sisters living there will have the strength and perseverance to continue to live the faith and keep Christ’s presence there alive—knowing that my sacrifices are nothing in comparison to theirs.” †