These modern-day Templars emphasize they are not Freemasons, nor are they a secret society
Canwest News Service | May 24, 2009
Ottawa’s Knights Templar join fight for Christianity
By Jennifer Green
OTTAWA — With spurs, sword and swirls of white and crimson, the Knights Templar began a new priory in Ottawa this weekend.
The Priory of Simon Peter is the third such group in Canada, and one of several hundred worldwide dedicated to upholding the chivalry of the centuries-old order. More specifically, they work to keep Christianity alive in the Holy Land.
The sunny May afternoon, the tuxedos and formal wear, even the bagpipe escort, gave the ceremony at the Canadian Forces Uplands chapel the air of a wedding rather than an ancient rite.
The six men and four women joining the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem took oaths to “fight from this day forward to be a defender of the kingdom of Christ.”
Each came forward, knelt and bowed slightly as a metre-long replica of an original Templar sword alighted on the shoulders and head.
“Arise, sir knight” said officiant Ronald Matthewman, Grand Prior of Canada. A traditional red cross on a crimson ribbon was placed around each postulant’s neck, then a white, floor-length cape draped across their shoulders. Another officiant held aloft a pair of silver spurs, tapped them twice, then bent down to place them (momentarily) on each postulant’s heels.
The dames and knights all touched the hilt of the sword with the three central fingers of their right hand “as a sign of fidelity to the order.”
Edmund Griffiths, a much decorated veteran of the Second World War, was elevated to lead the new group of about 30. The Priory of the Ascension of Our Lord in Windsor has 80 knights and dames, and Toronto’s Priory of St. James has about 50.
These modern-day Templars emphasize they are not Freemasons, nor are they a secret society, although candidates, usually highly educated community leaders, must be invited to join. These Templars are not Catholic, nor are they recognized by Rome. But they are Christian, and see their calling as religious, “seeking God in our lives.”
The modern Templars were revived in the 19th century in France; this organization was founded in the United States in the 1960s where the headquarters remain today. It makes no claims about descending from the original medieval knights. However, they do see themselves as upholders of the Templars’ medieval code of honour. Its website says: “The Order, in an age of democratic materialism and secular humanism, . . . (believes it has) an obligation to participate in the coalescing and preservation of a constructive force similar to that which created knighthood and chivalry during the Middle Ages.”
They state specifically that they are not political but much of their charitable works are centred on Christians in the Holy Land, such as Chaldean Catholics in Iraq.
Templar Tamir Andrea came from his home in Kingston to attend Saturday’s ceremony. Born in Nazareth, he was the first Templar to be inducted to the order in Jerusalem in seven centuries.
Griffiths, Ottawa’s prior, said his new group might consider something like help for aboriginal youth.
His granddaughter, Gillian Stacey Ainsworth, 26, was also among the new knights, or in her case, dames. Baptized an Anglican, she felt the weekly ritual of church on Sunday was simply not satisfying even though she is serious about her faith. Belonging to the Templars will allow her to do good works without the structure of weekly services. Ainsworth, who is single, said, “I take the vows as seriously as I would a marriage vow. I just can’t see that I would ever want to leave the group.”
David Moore, who commanded of the Canadian battle group in Bosnia, had been courted by many service groups, but he finally decided to join the Templars because of its solemn commitment to its principles. He also likes the fact that the Templars include women, many of whom have finer, stronger characters than many men, he says.
Lt. Com. Nicole Anne Lassaline took a long time to think about her decision to join. She wanted to be sure she would be able to give the extra time, energy and money that the commitment to the Templars would take. But her husband and daughter, 19, told her to go for it. Lassaline was particularly drawn to the Templars because they are one of the few service groups that accepts women and has earned recognition with the UN’s economic and social council. Lassaline is particularly hoping she can use her mediation skills.
The Knights Templar began in the 11th century as a unique order of high-born military monks commissioned to fight Holy Wars and protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
But by the 14th century, people became disenchanted with the order and accused them of corruption and growing soft. The pope disbanded the order and several of the leaders were burned at the stake for heresy.