Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Statement on the Secretariat of State's Clarification on Equestrian Orders

The Grand Priory welcomes the clarification issued by the Vatican Secretariat of State today on the status of Equestrian Orders.  It rightly makes the point that there are only five Papal Equestrian Orders, and only two others recognised by the Holy See.  It goes on to speak of the need for the faithful to be aware that other groups claiming to be Papal Orders or Equestrian Orders have no legitimacy.

This seems an opportune time to explain that the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of  Jerusalem is not an Equestrian Order, and has never been a Papal Order.  Indeed, it is not a Royal Order either, although it has come under the Temporal Protection of the Royal House of France since 1154.

Today, the Order remains under the protection of the Royal House and its head, the Comte de Paris.  The Order is also recognised as a Non Governmental Organisation by the UN, and in several countries it is recognised by the Holy See as a Pious Union of the Lay Faithful.  Just last month the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Duka was installed as Chaplain General of the Order in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio to the Czech Republic, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza.

We well understand why the Holy See has felt the need to issue this clarification on its own Orders.  There are a number of other groups styling themselves 'the Order of St Lazarus', often including titles such as 'sovereign', 'reunited', 'constitutional', or 'obedience'.  Some of these groups perform admirable charitable work, but they do not benefit from the historic legitimacy of our Order.  Clearly the Holy See has a special concern for the legitimacy of its own Orders and those Orders it recognises, and it is right to issue the timely clarification it has done today.

It would be mistake, however, to think that this clarification is aimed at anything other than bogus equestrian orders claiming papal legitimacy.  Our Order (just like other groups as the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of St Columba and the Knights of Columbanus) makes no such claims, but rather rejoices in our own history and our tradition of humble service to the Church.


  1. Thank you for this clarification. I note that
    'The Order is also recognised as a Non Governmental Organisation by the UN, and in several countries it is recognised by the Holy See as a Pious Union of the Lay Faithful.' Would it perhaps be useful for you to seek the services of a canon lawyer(s) and try to obtain juridical status or 'pastoral' approval of your order (which I presume is international) vis-a-vie the Church, indeed, as some kind of 'association of the faithful' ? The term 'pious union' is no longer used in the Code of Canon Law. It is not clear what kind of status that you have in the Catholic Church.

  2. Dear Fr. A.M.,

    Thank you for your comment.
    On April 24–25 2012, at their 89th plenary meeting, the Czech Bishops' Conference authorized the establishment of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem as a Private Association of the Lay Faithful in conformity with the relevant canons.

    The Order is seeking to use this a model for other Jurisdictions.

  3. Thank you very much indeed for your reply. I suppose that, in the case of the order and its various parts, seeking approval as a 'Private Association of the Lay Faithful' also entails, among other things, at least approval of statutes/constitutions. I suppose that will take some time to organise.

    With best wishes.


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