Patriarch Twal visits historic London institutions and presides Investiture ceremony
ENGLAND / WALES – During a recent visit to London, England, the Latin Patriarch, Archbishop Fouad Twal, enjoyed visits to two significant and historic London institutions: The Priory of England and the Islands of the Order of St John, Clerkenwell, and the Honourable Society of the Temple. The Bishops of the region and Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of England and Wales invited the Patriarch also to participate in their May 23, 2015 Investiture Ceremony at St. George Cathedral, Archdiocese of Southwark.
Visit to historic London institutions
A hidden piece of treasure lies in the middle of the bustling Clerkenwell area of central London. It was there that the Patriarch paid a short but welcome visit to the Priory Church of St John. Today, the church is part of the Museum of The Order of St John. Jerusalem has resonance with the Order of St John as it was here that the original Order cared for patients some 900 years earlier. The early Knights of St John were forced out of Jerusalem late in the 13th Century. It is believed that Hospitallers arose as a group of individuals who were associated with an Amalfitan hospital in the Muristan area of Jerusalem, which was dedicated to St John the Baptist and founded around 1023 by Blessed Gerard Thom to provide care for sick, poor or injured pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. In London, the Order of St John first set up a Priory in Clerkenwell in the 1140s as an English headquarters. However Henry VIII seized the property of The Order, and although Queen Mary restored the Order and granted a Royal Charter, Queen Elizabeth I dissolved the Order permanently.
The Priory Church was consecrated by Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, in the March of 1185. The next visit by a Patriarch of Jerusalem came 830 years later, by His Beatitude Fouad Twal. In the intervening years, the Order faced many difficulties and detours before settling definitively in Rome in 1834. Hospital work, the original work of the order, became once again its main concern. The Order’s hospital and welfare activities, undertaken on a considerable scale in World War I, were greatly expanded in World War II. The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, better known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), is a Roman Catholic religious order and the world’s oldest surviving order of chivalry. Its sovereign status is recognised by membership in numerous international bodies and observer status at the United Nations and others.
After the Protestant Reformation, the Order’s German branches continued their adherence to the Order while at the same time embracing Protestant theology. The Order continues in Germany today, virtually independent of the Roman Catholic Order. From Germany, the Protestant branch spread to numerous countries in Europe, the Americas and Australia. The British Order was founded in 1831 and, in time, became known as the Most Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem in Great Britain. It received its royal charter from Queen Victoria in 1888 and spread throughout Britain and the United States. It was only in 1963 that the Sovereign Military Order of Malta recognized the British Order. Its best-known activities centre upon the St. John Ambulance brigade and the St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. The St John Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem is an outstanding example of how people of different cultures can work together—the Order’s hospital is situated in the Holy Land, is managed by Christians and most of its patients are Muslims.
The second visit was the Temple Church within The Temple area of Central London. The area contains two of the four Inns of Court – the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple – professional associations for barristers and judges. Today, the Inns provide legal training, selection, and regulation for members. With a history of decline and major destruction during the Blitz of World War II, followed by restoration and reconstruction, the Inner Temple today has over 8,000 members.
The Temple was originally the precinct of the Knights Templar whose Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar (the soldier-monks who protected pilgrims to the Holy Land during the Crusades) was named in honour of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The Knights had two of the four Inns. The Knights Hospitallers and the Knights Templar became the most formidable military orders in the Holy Land. The latter was dissolved in 1312 and the former during the Reformation. However, the barristers, for each of their societies (Inner Temple and Middle Temple), remained tenants of the Crown. Their current tenure dates from a charter granted to them by James I in 1608. Most of the property is occupied by buildings in which barristers practice from set rooms known as chambers. Until the twentieth century, many of the chambers in the Temple were also residential accommodation for barristers; however, shortage of space for professional purposes gradually limited the number of residential sets to the very top floors, which are largely occupied by senior barristers and judges, many of whom use them as pied-à-terres, having their family home outside London.
Of particular attraction is the Temple Church, described as the finest of the four round churches still existing in London. It is a church in the round, which was consecrated by Patriarch Heraclius in 1185. After the fall of the Templars, the Church fell into the hands of the Knights Hospitaller and Henry VIII appointed a priest, known as the Master of the Temple. The Royal Charter granted by James I that guaranteed the independence of the Inner and Middle Temples did so on the condition that the Temples maintain the church, a requirement which has been followed to this day.
Over the centuries, much interior and exterior restoration and decoration occurred. All of this work was destroyed during the Second World War when firebombs gutted the church. Over the next decade the church was restored, and it was re-consecrated in 1954 by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church is now an active Anglican Church with one of the finest choirs in England.
England and Wales Investiture of Knights and Dames
At this occasion, His Beatitude had the pleasure of meeting with Bishops, Canons, the Lieutenant, Knights and Dames of the Order.
Prior to the Investiture of eight knights and dames – 3 men, 3 ladies and two priests – the Patriarch together with H.E. Lieutenant David L. G. Smith visited the historic Priory of St John (Order of Hospitallers) and the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, a professional association for barristers and judges. Following the Investiture Ceremony and banquet, there was the opportunity to visit the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales.
The Patriarch presided at the Mass of Investiture, which was concelebrated by Archbishop of Southwark, Most Reverend Peter Smith, Bishop Richard Moth, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton and several canons and priests of the Order and participated in by numerous members of the Order. In his homily, His Beatitude spoke about the vocation and the call of God to the Knights and Dames as a distinct call to serve the Church of the Holy Land. And given the proximity of the ceremony to the Feast of Pentecost, he invited the knights and dames and the new candidates to “embrace Spirit-filled and Spirit-led lives” so as to be more effective in serving the mission of the Order. Reiterating the calls of recent Popes for a “New Pentecost”, he remarked that such calls flow from “the perception of the present-day weakness of the Church and the end of Christendom, the end of Christian society”, and from the “urgent need for a renewal of a personal relationship with God himself, a relationship that “comes alive” in the reality of Pentecost.” The Mass was followed by a luncheon at the Great Hall of the Lincoln’s Inn. It is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar.
Later in the day, Sheriff Fiona Adler, one of the two Sheriffs elected annually for the City of London, whom the Patriarch had met at an earlier gathering, gave a private tour of the Old Bailey. The Old Bailey houses the Central Criminal Court that deals with the major criminal cases from within Greater London and often the whole of England and Wales. Today, Sheriffs have only nominal duties, but previously had important judicial responsibilities. The title Sheriff comes from two words: shire (town) and reeve (a representative of the king in the town, collecting taxes and enforcing the law). As such, there are many references to it in literature (Charles Dickens), movies (Witness for the Prosecution), television (Rumpole of the Bailey), and in novels. Truly a fascinating visit and a good insight into criminal trial procedures in England.
Thanks and appreciation are extended to all who made the London visit special and memorable.
Texte: Father Michael McDonagh
Photos: Marcin Mazur