70 Knights and Ladies of the Patriarchal Order of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem in Trier
About seventy members of the “Pariarchal Order of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem” of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, a church united with Rome, that is, in complete ecclesial communion, have been making a pilgrimage to the Holy Tunic. The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is a guardian of the Byzantine Liturgy in the Catholic Church: the members of the Order were invited together with the leader of their Church, Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch.
Pastor Hans Wilhelm Ehlen has had to welcome numerous groups to the newly restored Church of Our Lady in Trier since its re-opening in 2011. Yet probably none of them dressed in such a colourful and ornate way as those of the Patriarchal Order of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem. The German and Belgian members of the patriarchal lay-order, which has its headquarters in Aachen, appeared in their costumes as Ladies and Knights, to celebrate a solemn Mass of the Byzantine Liturgy and tradition. The chief celebrant was the leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church: His Beatitude the Grand Master and Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch.
The Grand Master Gregorios III, Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Antioch and All the East (born in 1933) answered with a smile the question as to whether this was his first visit to Trier. In fact the Patriarch, resident in Damascus (Syria) is something of a Holy Tunic veteran: “I’ve known Trier since 5 August 1959, when I took part in the Pax Christi walk from Metz to Trier and the holy Tunic. Since then I’ve come back again and again.”
The Undivided Robe is for him a symbol of the unity of Christendom, which symbolises the passion, but also the resurrection of Christ. Christians from West and East, the Patriarch suggests, ought to stand together, so that there is less violence – above all, especially in his homeland of Syria. “Alas, the situation is very tense there. Syrians should be able to look to the future together. That is why I tell Europe: help us, since you can give some people in the country more confidence and trust.. We can survive this crisis.” The Patriarch and the members of the order were welcomed by Suffragan Bishop Jörg Michael Peters. The Melkite Greek Catholic Church has about two million faithful. The Order of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem carries out numerous aid projects in the Middle East, including projects of church conservation and preservation of holy sites, the construction of educational facilities and institutions of health care.
Until 13 May the Diocese of Trier invited people to make pilgrimage to the Holy Tunic in Trier. This was the first occasion since 1996 that the holy Tunic could be seen again in Trier Cathedral. The pilgrimage took place under the heading “and bring together what is separated.” The holy robe, the tunic of Jesus Christ, is the most important relic of the Cathedral of Trier. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, is supposed to have brought it to Trier in the fourth century. Information about the Holy Robe Pilgrimage can be found on the Internet at www.heilig-rock-wallfahrt.de or at the Pilgrimage Office, Tel.: 0651-7105-8012.
Vatican Radio: Christ’s Holy Tunic venerated in Trier
On Friday of Easter Week, Pope Benedict XVI’s special envoy Cardinal Marc Ouellet, presided over a ceremony opening the pilgrimage to the Holy Tunic, preserved in the Cathedral of Trier in Germany. The relic, piously believed to be the ‘seamless garment’ worn by Christ at the Passion, was exposed for the veneration of the faithful for only the fourth time in the last hundred years. According to legend, the Holy Tunic was brought to Trier – at the time, the capital of Gaul – by St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine.
This year’s pilgrimage marks the 500th anniversary of the first public exposition of the Tunic in the year 1512. In a message to the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, Pope Benedict said he would be present in thought with all the pilgrims who come to venerate the relic. The Holy Father said the Tunic is a symbol of the Church, which lives “not by its own power, but through the action of God.” “This garment,” the Pope said, “is the undivided gift of the Crucified One to the Church, which He has sanctified with His blood. For this reason, the Holy Tunic reminds the Church of her dignity.” As many as half a million pilgrims were expected to visit Trier during the four weeks (April 13 – May 13) when the Sacred Tunic was exposed.