IN POLISH JERUSALEM
History, work, ministry –The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem in Miechów
Agnieszka Dziarmaga talks with Stanisław F. Osmenda KCHS – a secular master of ceremonies and a Custodian of the Headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem
– Miechów is a headquarters of one of the most important sanctuaries of God’s Sepulcher, with the oldest replica of the authentic sepulcher of Christ in Europe, guarded by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem brought to Poland in XII century…
– Canons of God’s Sepulcher, brought by Jaksa in 1163 from Miechów, built a replica of Christ’s Sepulcher and a church of God’s Sepulcher, sanctified by bishop of Cracow Gedka. Since then, the task of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem from Miechów, often called Miechowici on Polish lands, has been spreading the divine service to God’s Sepulcher, completely unknown in Poland.
They popularized building God’s Sepulchers on Good Friday in churches belonging to them, organized ceremonies in the Great Week and on the second Sunday after Easter.
The development of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem took place in XV century, and the sanctuary in Miechów became one of the most developing centers of the religious order. When Jerusalem was conquered by the Muslims, Guards of God’s Sepulcher celebrated the Passion and Resurrection in Miechów and at that time Miechów received the honorable name of Polish Jerusalem.
Not only did the very pilgrimages from Poland go to the very Miechów, but also from whole Europe. Inhabitants of Miechów obtained indulgences from the Holy See which were similar to those which pilgrims visiting the Holy Land obtained. Polish kings also made religious pilgrimages to the Lord’s Sepulcher in Miechów, among the others, Queen Jadwiga. Stefan Batory made a pilgrimage to the Lord’s Sepulcher twice, where his nephew – Andrzej Batory was a provost of the monastery.
– Is the Great Week connected with Miechów, for Polish Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, or the liturgy of the Great Week is important time for you – as the Religious Order?
– The time of the Great Week and Easter is a very important time for the contemporary Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. We started it with the Lent retreats in the Sanctuary of Jasna Góra, held under the motto ‘Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem in the ministry of new evangelization’. The retreats were taught by bishop prof. Kazimierz Ryczan – a Knight Commander with star. In Miechów, on Good Friday we always meet in a very big group of dames and cavaliers of the Religious Order with the leadership of J. E. Karol B. Szlenkier – a superior, in order to participate and experience a liturgy of the ceremony of Good Friday. It starts with the Road of Cross around beautifully restored cloisters of the basilica in Miechów, with the participation of a crowd of believers. After singing the ‘Passion’ – according to the tradition – attributes of Lord’s Passion are carried on shoulders of dames in the procession to the God’s Sepulcher. Sounds of rattles and singing of the Passion songs create extremely magnificent atmosphere.
– Have you become a Custodian of the Supremacy of the Polish Order in Miechów recently? What does this function mean?
– In 2012, during the Second Days of Jerusalem in Miechów, which were enriched with the presence of the Great Master of the Order His Eminence Priest Edwin F. Cardinal O’Brien, our Great provost the late Józef Cardinal Glemp and the Custodian of the Holy Land Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and also bishop Kazimierz Ryczan – there was a solemn sanctification of the headquarter of the Polish supremacy.
Having been nominated by the Superior His Eminence Karol Bolesław Szlenkier, I became a custodian of this wonderful headquarter. So far my role has been preparation of rooms received from Fr. Inf. Jerzy Gredka for functions and standards which are required in the Order. At present I will be caring about its maintenance and I will be administering its good. The most imposing room is a library in which there are meetings of the Council of Supremacy. This great and a very important work is a succession of a decree signed during the First Days of Jerusalem in Miechów on 12 September 2010 – by His Beatitude of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem archbishop Fouad Twal the Great Prior of the Order, His Eminence Cardinal Józef Glemp – the Great Prior of the Polish Supremacy OESSH, His Eminence bishop of Kielce prof. Kazimierz Ryczan, the superior His Eminence Karol B. Szlenkier and Fr. Inf. Jerzy Gredka – a parish priest of God’s Sepulcher in Miechów. In this solemnly announced decree it was written that since then the headquarter of the Knights’ Order of God’s Sepulcher in Jerusalem is Miechów.
– What is the new headquarter aimed for?
– The headquarter of the Order is aimed for the whole group of dames and cavaliers OESSH in Poland, we also want to host our confreres from abroad. Our guests from Germany and England were impressed by the quality of completion of the headquarter and its architecture. It is worth emphasizing that the costs of completion works were borne by the members of the Order, and the creator of the project is architect Jerzy Wowczak from Cracow.
On 2 March 2013, in the headquarter of our supremacy, the Council of Supremacy met with the recently appointed Legal Commission. The meeting was presided over by the Superior His Eminence Karol B. Szlenker. They were discussing matters connected with the organization of the jubilee pilgrimage to the Holy Land, devoted to the 850th anniversary of the existence of the Equestrian order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem in Poland. They set the initial program of a trip to Rome for a worldly meeting of the Order, a calendar of events and holidays of the Order this year, as well as for the year 2014. I want to mention that a day earlier in the town-hall of Miechów His Eminence Karol B. Szlenkier and the Mayor – Dariusz Marczewski solemnly gave diplomas and memorable medals to benefactors of the Order who had contributed to organization of the First and the Second Days of Jerusalem in Miechów.
Referring to the 850th anniversary of the existence of the foundation of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, on 28 and 29 September 2013, Fr. Inf. Commander Jerzy Gredka, together with the Order OESSH are organizing jubilee ceremonies with the participation of archbishop His Eminence Celestino Migliore – the Apostolic Nuncio in Poland. We cordially invite everybody for these ceremonies. The Basilica of God’s Sepulcher and Lord’s Sepulcher and renovated post-monastery buildings with the General’s House are a proof for long-time wonderful history and hard work of Polish Guards of God’s Sepulcher in Miechów.