Saturday 26 November 2016


Last month members gathered in Rome for the General Chapter. It was a splendid occasion and the opportunity to renew many friendships, as well as forge new ones. It was also the occasion for our 50th Grand Master, HE Jan Count Dobrzenský z Dobrzenicz, to present his State of the Order Address, which is given here below.


My dear friends,

Welcome to the Eternal City. Every three years we come together as members of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem to participate in an important occasion, our Chapter General. This year, in a very special way, the celebrations will be conducted at the spiritual centre of our Christian faith in Rome. First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to the Grand Priory of Italy, especially H.E. Giovanni Ferrara, for its meticulous organisation in preparing for this event. 

Today we have the Chapter General when all the members come together and communicate their experiences, challenges and successes. It is a moment to reflect and consider the important role we each play in the life of the Order, including that of the high officers. It is my sincere wish that we all leave this meeting, rejuvenated in faith, with a strong message of hope and a firm resolve for our mission over the coming years. 

Since my election in 2010 my government and I have pursued a broad range of objectives for us to obtain. Namely, to assess the Order’s traditional role, to re-establish its good name and to clarify its relevance, both spirituality and temporally, in the modern world. By this I mean the importance of reconnecting with the basic fundamentals of the Order of Saint Lazarus. 

In this mission we draw our validity in a very real way through the temporal protection of the Royal House of France, represented by H.R.H. Prince Charles-Philippe d’Orléans, duc d’Anjou, and our spiritual protection from H.Em. Dominik Cardinal Duka O.P., our Chaplain General. This duality of protection, both temporal and spiritual, underpins the true authenticity of the Order, clearly expressed in the Declaration of Legitimacy. 

In this most solemn of cities I reaffirm the manifest connection with our heritage, calling to mind that the Order was founded in Jerusalem as a Catholic Order of Knights Military and Hospitaller. As a general policy, my government and I will continue to uphold a strategy which follows the teachings of the Holy See and, in the face of the challenges in modern society, we will seek to reaffirm our objectives along these lines. 

Today we profess an unbroken link with our founding brothers, continuing our mission to promote Christian unity and carry out temporal works of mercy. We must remember that through the Gospel we share the same values of other Christian ecclesial communities and come together in the name of Saint Lazarus and the Virgin Mary to serve Christ, our unseen captain. 

You will remember that one of the main objectives after my election as Grand Master was to realign the mission of the Order of Saint Lazarus with its traditional and spiritual role. Three years ago we established a commission to consider the most appropriate means by which we could open formal communications with the relevant ecclesiastical authorities. Given the fundamentals outlined above, and the conclusions reached by this commission, I have decided to pursue a path of achieving recognition from the major Christian religious institutions, primarily from the Catholic Church. 

With this in mind we look to canon 322 of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which stipulates that we should work toward acquiring juridic personality for the Order as a Consociatio christifidelium privata, a private association of Christian faithful. This recognition can only be achieved through a formal decree from the competent ecclesiastical authority as prescribed in canon 312§1; being the Holy See for international associations; the conference of bishops for national associations; and a bishop for diocesan associations. 

Currently, the Order is well placed to present a positive petition in line with these canonical norms and has already received recognition on both diocesan and national levels. In this mission we must recognise, however, the confusion caused by different organisations professing the green cross around the world. Whilst they promote charitable works they do not identify with the principles of the Catholic faith. This has resulted in a serious crisis in identity about who the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem is. 

In word and in action, it is my intention to differentiate ourselves from others and to uphold the role we have assumed over the last 1000 years. The path we follow is not easy, not least because we live in a world which attacks our faith, nevertheless, I am resolute that this is the only course for the Order. Nothing will deter me from my desire to obtain such recognition and I encourage you to walk with me in faith, no matter the circumstance. 

Our works of spirituality and charity, the two major Christian tenets, are very often challenged. We must, however, work to defend them in the face of opposition which is manifest through the contradictions of the world. I stand firm in promoting our vocation to live as members of an Order, not of a secular club or association, and as such we should only recruit ‘quality Christians’ to our membership. 

In 2010 we comprised just six loyal jurisdictions. Today at the Investiture Ceremony we are going to proclaim the fourteenth jurisdiction, the Grand Priory of Polonia. It is heartening to acknowledge that since our last Chapter General we have erected independent Grand Priories in Belgium, Hungary, Portugal and Portuguese-speaking African countries. Furthermore, we celebrate numerous vibrant Commanderies which in the future will be raised to the status of a Grand Priory. 

Whilst I am proud of this success, we must continue to improve the effectiveness of our message. Not least, we need to address the question of identity which is important for the outside world, especially in promoting our mission to society, to the Church and to those who want to know who we are. Let me be clear, we are the only true, legitimate Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. 

To you Grand Priors and Heads of Jurisdiction, it is important that your selection process for postulants fits the criteria of admission; that is to say men and women who will work effectively to further the ends of the Order and who are in good standing with their ecclesial community. I must strongly impart to you my resolve that quantity is not important. We must welcome quality confrères and consoeurs to labour with us in the vineyard of the Lord, in order to effectively help the sick, the needy and those unable to help themselves. As an Order, I remind you that our raison d’être is to promote spirituality, charity and compassion. 

Yesterday we held our annual Governing Council meeting and the main topic of discussion was to ensure that we provide effective charitable and spiritual assistance throughout the world. It is the intention of my government and I to increase the Order’s commitment to those affected by war and devastation. We must be mindful that here in Europe there is a serious need to assist refugees and overseas to show compassion to our Christian brethren in the Middle East. I therefore thank all the members of the Order for their continued engagement with our charitable activities. 

In particular, I would like to outline three specific international projects for which we, as an Order, have been working: 

Grand Priory Great Britain; the main project is to support the works of SUROL in Sri Lanaka, combatting the effects of leprosy. Thanks to the ongoing partnership with H.Em. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith we continue to work together to support the efforts in combatting Hansen’s disease, connecting us in a tangible way with the traditional roots of our Order. 

Grand Priory of Belgium and Luxemburg; the main project is to support the works of a Monastery in Kurdistan by assisting refugees, ensuring that we continue to tackle this humanitarian crisis at its very source. 

Grand Priory of the Netherlands; the main project is to support the works of our ‘Flying Doctors’ initiative improving sanitary conditions in Indonesia in partnership with the University of Leiden. 

There are also numerous projects being carried out within other national jurisdictions and I would like to stress that we will continue to demonstrate our compassion, affirming a strong commitment to all our efforts. 

Turning to another important issue, finances. I am pleased to report that the Order is in a sound financial position with well managed reserves. As a registered NGO with headquarters in Luxemburg, we will continue to develop charitable partnershipswith other major organisations to support international projects outside the Order. 

Now I must speak to you personally as members of the Order. This my sixth year as your Grand Master and my fortieth year in joyful service as a member of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. I am grateful to our Lord, who has given me guidance and inspiration throughout this time. My health is strong and my mind is very clear. Before you all I profess that I am steadfast in my task to uphold the promises I made to you at my installation; to continue to serve the Order loyally and faithfully in the face of great challenges. I will never forget that I am Grand Master thanks to the members who elected me and I trust that my vision for the future is compatible with your expectations. 

I conclude by saying that our future is set out to meet three clear aims: first of all, to achieve recognition as a private association of Christian faithful, secondly, to continue to develop the breadth of our charitable projects and thirdly, to strengthen our communication tools to attract new members to the Order. 

I thank you for your confidence and friendship as members of our great family of Saint Lazarus, and I repeat that it has been an honour to serve you and I am very happy to continue in this mission. 

I remain your humble servant before God, the Virgin Mary and Saint Lazarus. 
15 October 2016, Rome 
H.E. Jan Count Dobrzenský z Dobrzenicz 
Magnus L Magister, citra et ultra maria, Præceptor Boignaci.