Investiture weekend - Grand Bailiwick of Sicily

During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which since 1968 has been celebrated from 19 to 25 January throughout Europe, solemn rites for the investiture of new members of the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem took place at the Grand Bailiwick of Sicily. A delegation from the Grand Priory of Slovakia, led by Grand Prior Chev. Capt. Mgr. Ing. Stanislav Holák, PhD, GCLJ-J, was also present.

The Anglican Archbishop Ian Ernest, representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See, and Archbishop Antonii, Metropolitan for Central and Western Europe of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Bulgaria, were admitted as new members of the Grand Bailiwick of Sicily.

The two high prelates, accompanied by members of their respective retinues, the Lieutenant General Advocate Pierluigi Matta and the Chancellor of the Grand Bailiwick Dr. Francesco Paolo Tronca, held a number of meetings with senior officials during their stay.

On the evening of Saturday 20 January 2024, the Prayer Vigil for Christian Unity and the investiture of new members took place at the Cathedral Basilica of Monreale, in the presence of representatives of various Christian denominations.

Then, on Sunday 21 January 2024, a solemn pontifical service was celebrated at the Sacred Heart Chapter Church, presided over by the Ecclesiastical Grand Prior of the Order, Archbishop Michele Pennisi, and concelebrated by the Chaplain General of the Grand Bailiwick, Archbishop of Monreale Gualtiero Isacchi, and the Dean of the Theological Faculty of Sicily, Rev. Prof. Vito Impellizzeri, assisted by Deacon Dionisio Catarinicchia.

In addition to Archbishops Ian and Antonii, Father Giovanni La Rosa, Anglican parish priest of Randazzo, Deacon Dionisio Catarinicchia, Head of the Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Diocese of Monreale, Dr. Giovanni Imburgia, Doctor, and Dr. Luigi Zancla, President of the SAMO Onlus (Oncological Patient Assistance Society) received the investiture.

A number of promotions in the Order and awards of merit were presented during the ceremony, which closed with Metropolitan Antonii's blessing of the new icon of St. Lazarus, which was then displayed for public veneration, and with the handing over to the two archbishops of two mid-century 'Meskel' priestly crosses, unique pieces made with the lost-wax method, from Lalibela and Aksum, in silver, copper and nickel alloy, crosses that Coptic priests use to bless the faithful.