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HISTORY – On October 10, 1847, Archbishop Joseph Valerga was consecrated Patriarch of Jerusalem following the announcement of the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem by Pope Pius IX in the short Nulla Celebrior of July 23, 1847. To celebrate this anniversary Sir William Simpson, a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of the Lieutenancy of Luxembourg, traces in an article, the origin and the history of this restoration. He explains in an interview his passion for this period in the history of Jerusalem.

Sir William Simpson, your job as a lawyer in a banking institution is a priori, not what led you to do such historical research. How did you find the time to work on the history of the Latin Patriarchate?

My studies at the Institute of Political Studies of Aix-en-Provence led me to study history, notably the period of the Crimean War. I discovered then that Jerusalem and the protection of the Holy Places was a major issue in the conflict, and I started to become interested in the history of the Holy Land in the nineteenth century. Subsequently, I became closer to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, of which I am now a member. I tried to learn more about the origin and history of the Order. I discovered at this point that the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate favored the re-founding of the Order. I wanted to understand the political and religious events that surrounded these two re-establishments.

This work had to take much of your free time, what did it bring you?

The pleasure of discovering an era that fascinates me but also exceptional men: the life of Blessed Pope Pius IX is particularly interesting to study. This Pope whose pontificate is still today the longest in history, was a statesman and a man of the Church who left many traces of his passage beyond the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. He summoned Vatican I, who affirmed the infallibility of the Pope, proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and developed devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Loved by some, hated by others, he left no one indifferent and I was touched by this character.

Archbishop Bishop Valerga, who was the first Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, is not an ordinary man either. A brilliant young clergyman, he was soon sent to the apostolic delegations of the Middle East, and at 34 he was appointed Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem. In a very short time he succeeded in establishing the seminary in Beit Jala, initiated the re-founding of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher and launched the construction of the Co-cathedral.

I finally had the chance to exchange with recognized specialists in the history of Jerusalem and the Patriarchate, such as Father Hanna Kildani who published a thesis on modern Christianity in Jordan and Palestine and is now the Patriarchal Vicar in Israel or even the scholar Paolo Pieraccini who has published many works on this exciting period.

Is this also a way for you to respond to your vocation as a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher?

Yes of course. If I am not able to come here regularly – making this pilgrimage with our four young children is not so easy to consider. I travel to Jerusalem through my research and I hope I give a taste for discovering this unique place to those who hear my lectures. I also, witness to this call in my Christian life on a daily basis, in my commitment and involvement in the Lieutenancy and in the Saint-Yves Conference [1], of which I am currently the Chairperson in Luxembourg. Christ is risen in Jerusalem but calls us to testify to his love for us everywhere!

Interview by Cécile Klos

[1] The Saint-Yves Conference is the Luxembourg is an association of Catholic lawyers and jurists

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