The Abbey-Principality has recently been sent a copy of an important letter of Mgr. Joseph-René Vilatte (1854-1929) (who would become Prince-Abbot Joseph III of San Luigi in 1899). The letter is dated 29 December 1893 and is addressed to Prince Guy de Lusignan (1831-1906), a Patron of the Order of the Crown of Thorns.
At the time of writing, Vilatte had been Grand Master of the Order of the Crown of Thorns for just six months, having succeeded the Rev. Gaston Fercken. The Order was the first Western-style order of chivalry to be established under the Orthodox Church rather than Rome, when in 1891 the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Peter IV approved the refoundation under Fercken of the former medieval Order of the Crown of Thorns. In 1899, it would unite with the separate branch of the Order that had been founded in 1883 by the first Prince-Abbot of San Luigi. Vilatte was consecrated Metropolitan for the Old Catholics of America by the Syrian Orthodox Church in 1892.
The letter makes it clear that problems had arisen in the Order under Fercken. According to Vilatte, Fercken had appointed as members of the Order several Parisian journalists. Mutual jealousies ensued and the Order found itself the victim of controversy and outright falsehood in the Parisian press. These developments had clearly occasioned Prince Guy’s concern and prompted him to write to Vilatte, who was at that time at his American missions in Wisconsin.
In writing, Vilatte directs a few barbs towards Rome which in his view had departed from Catholic faith and tradition in the First Vatican Council (1870) of still-recent memory. He speaks of the Order “refusing the infallible Pope’s blessing”, referring to the doctrine of Papal infallibility which had been central to the decrees of the First Vatican Council and which he did not accept. He then makes it clear that the Order of the Crown of Thorns is a Catholic order without being either Roman or Papist, since it had turned to Orthodox authority in the place of a fallen Rome.
A full transcript of the text of the letter follows:
Je suis profondement chagriné de voir les mensonges qui sont publiés dans les journeaux de Paris, au sujet de notre Saint Ordre.
Mais je puis vous assurer que depuis que j’ai l’honneur d’être le grand Maître de l’Ordre de la Couronne d’Epines, pas un seul français a été reçu dans l’ordre par moi. Les personnes qui ont demandés leur admission depuis 6 mois ont étés refuses elles étaient tous de Paris.
Si quelques personnes sont indiqués de notre Ordre la faute retourne sur mon predecesseur le Rev. Fercken. Qui malheureusement a reçu des journalistes qui sont jaloux les uns des autres. De là les mensonges etc etc.
Pour le future je puis vous assurer que l’ordre marchera dans le progrets et pour la défense de Jesus crucifié.
La France est un pays romain, soumise au Pape de Rome, il suffit pour notre ordre de la couronne d’Epines de refuser la benediction du Pape infaillible pour que les journaux français soient en harmonie avec le Pape de Rome pour maudire et mépriser les Ordres religieux qui sont Catholiques sans être romains ou papiste.
Dans l’espérance que vous comprendre la situation de notre St. Ordre. J’ai l’honneur de vous informer que pas un seul français a merité l’honneur depuis 6 mois d’être reçu par moi dans l’Ordre, et que personne a Paris pas selon que dans les autres pays n’a le droit ou l’autorité de conferer les brevets.
Dans l’espérance Monseigneur, que Dieu et la très St Mère vous combleront de benedictions pour cette nouvelle année.
J’ai l’honneur de vous saluir
+J R Vilatte
This is translated into English as follows:
December 29, 1893 United States
To His Royal Highness
Mgr. Guy de Lusignan,
Paris – Neuilly
I am deeply saddened to see the lies that are published in the newspapers of Paris, about our Holy Order.
But I can assure you that since I have the honour of being the Grand Master of the Order of the Crown of Thorns, not a single Frenchman has been received in the order by me. The people who applied for admission in the past 6 months were refused; they were all from Paris.
If some people are indicated to be in our Order the fault goes to my predecessor the Rev. Fercken. Who unfortunately received some journalists who are jealous of each other. From them come the lies etc etc.
For the future I can assure you that the order will work for the benefit and for the defense of Jesus crucified.
France is a Roman country, subject to the Pope of Rome, it suffices for our order of the Crown of Thorns to refuse the infallible Pope’s blessing, for the French newspapers to be in harmony with the Pope of Rome to curse and despise Religious Orders which are Catholic without being Roman or Papist.
In the hope that you will understand the situation of our Holy Order. I have the honour to inform you that for 6 months not a single Frenchman has deserved the honour of being received by me in the Order, and that no one in Paris, nor in other countries, has the right or authority to grant its brevets.
In the hope, Monseigneur, that God and the Blessed Mother may fill you with blessings for this new year.
I have the honour to greet you
+ J R Vilatte
The Grand Priory of Brazil of the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem) has recently launched its new website at https://www.osmthbrasil.org The website contains many informative texts and video presentations on subjects of interest.
In Brazil, the Grand Priory of the OSMTH has built a Templar Complex dedicated to the Spiritual Cavalry of St John the Baptist, located in Santa Maria, Carangola, Minas Gerais. It is built of stone following the medieval model and consists of three parts: (1) the Temple of Saint John the Baptist, built in the shape of an octagon, like the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, where the Order was born. This is where private meetings take place; (2) the Candle Room of Arms of Grandmaster Dom Fernando Campello Pinto Pereira de Souza Fontes, where the postulants are received for the first time, before their initiation; and (3) the Chapel of Santa Maria Madalena, built in the shape of a cross (like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Gothic Cathedrals built in Europe by the Order), which is where the Public Ceremonies are held. Everyone is welcome at the complex, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Archbishop Lorentzen (left) with Archbishop Paget Mack of the AEC at his consecration at St Lucy’s Cathedral in New York in 2014
The Apostolic Episcopal Church has been informed of the death of the Most Revd. Paul Lorentzen, who served as Archbishop of the Province of the East in the Apostolic Episcopal Church between 2015 and 2019. He died of cancer on 5 July at the age of 71.
Paul Lorentzen was a graduate of McKee High School and following his Associate of Science degree earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion and a Master of Divinity degree from Faith Evangelical College and Seminary, Tacoma, Washington. He followed this with a PhD in Christian Counseling for substance abuse.
His secular career ended with the position of plant superintendent of The South Beach Psychiatric Center, from which he retired in 2001. Thereafter he pursued his religious vocation and was ordained priest in the North American Lutheran Church. He pastored various Lutheran churches in New York, including St Paul’s Lutheran, Brooklyn, Immanuel Lutheran, and Eltingville Lutheran Church, Staten Island.
He came to know the late Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan of the Order of Corporate Reunion, who was in communion with the Apostolic Episcopal Church. Archbishop Brennan duly ordained him deacon and priest and he joined the OCR. In addition to his other ministerial responsibilities he served as a deacon in the Association of Independent Evangelical Lutheran Churches (which was also in communion with the AEC) at St George’s Astoria. During this period he was also supply clergy for the Episcopal Church on Staten Island. On June 20, 2014, he was consecrated bishop by bishop Alan Stanford, assisted by bishops Gregory Raeppel and George Jachimczyk. Bishop Stanford was consecrated by Archbishop Maxey, formerly Primate of the AEC.
In 2014, Archbishop Francis Spataro announced his retirement as Primate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church. Paul Lorentzen was admitted to the Apostolic Episcopal Church and conditionally consecrated bishop by Archbishop Spataro assisted by Archbishop Brennan and Archbishop Paget Mack of the AEC at St Lucy’s Old Roman Catholic Cathedral on 30 December 2014. He was appointed Provincial of the East when Archbishop Spataro retired on 5 February 2015, served as a Deputy to the Primate, and received the honorary degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology from the AEC. As a result of Archbishop Brennan’s efforts, he was also appointed a Delegate at the United Nations to represent the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II.
During 2015, Archbishop Lorentzen accepted the Lutheran pastorate of Transfiguration Church on Staten Island, New York, where he also ran a men’s ministry called Transfiguration Life Together. It was further intended that an Evangelical Catholic mission for the AEC should develop there, but this unfortunately did not happen. Archbishop Lorentzen also wished to extend his existing work in the Episcopal Church by becoming certified with them so that he could go on their regular call roster for Staten Island, but again this came to nothing.
The death of Archbishop Brennan in 2016 seems to have marked a turning-point in Archbishop Lorentzen’s ministry. Archbishop Lorentzen was in attendance upon him during his last days and gave him Holy Communion on his deathbed, Most of the former ecumenical activity that had been associated with the OCR, and with which the AEC had also been closely involved, came to an end. When the AEC reasserted its own representation of the Order of Corporate Reunion in 2017, Archbishop Lorentzen was supportive of this action, but it was difficult to escape the impression that his priorities were now elsewhere.
By February 2019, Archbishop Lorentzen’s ministry had developed to the extent that it was now wholly centred upon the Lutheran Church, giving rise to concerns that while he continued to hold senior office in the AEC, this had now become purely a nominal appointment. It was clearly not in the best interests of anyone that this situation should continue, and accordingly he resigned from the AEC and the OCR and thereafter devoted himself to the Lutheran ministry.
He was past master of Tompkins Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons No. 471, and Lodge No. 66, and a member of Nansen Lodge Sons of Norway on Staten Island.
He was passionate about rescued Pit Bull dogs, and they were his constant companions.
The Abbey-Principality of San Luigi commends its members and visitors to support the Kabalega Foundation, a charitable and commemorative institution which has been established in the Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara in memory of His late Majesty Omukama Chwa II Kabalega. H.M. Omukama Chwa II Kabalega, then the absolute ruler of the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, was responsible for the re-establishment of the Abbey of San Luigi in 1885 and bestowed upon Prince-Abbot Joseph II the title of Mukungu of the Ancient Abbey-Principality of San Luigi (Fizzan), which is held by his successor today.
The Foundation’s activities include civic advocacy and engagement, cultural research and development, environmental protection, and health, water, sanitation and hygiene.
There is also much historical information at the Foundation’s website. The Fact File about H.M. Omukama Chwa II Kabalega recounts the history of the King’s generosity towards the Abbey-Principality, saying,
In 1885 Kabaleega signed a diplomatic agreement with the Abbey Principality of San Luigi (Fezzan), in which he formally recognised the Prince-Abbot and granted the monks territory in Bunyoro. On March 15, 1885, Kabaleega conferred upon the Prince-Abbot the title of “Mukungu (Prince Governor) of the Chieftainship of the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi (Fizzan)” (incorrectly transcribed “Makougos” in a number of later documents). This marked the beginning of the diplomatic relationship between Bunyoro and the Principality, which has continued to-date.
The monks, who had travelled from Fezzan (Libya) through Sudan, remained in Bunyoro until 1888 when an epidemic of tropical fever left Prince-Abbot José II the only survivor; he therefore closed the Abbey in Bunyoro and returned to Europe.
The Principality of San Luigi is a traditional Catholic sovereign principality. It was founded on St Louis’ Day, August 25, 1883, at Ghadames in the Touareg-Azgar country (Tripolitania-Fezzan, now part of modern Libya) by members of the Benedictine Order, with the Rev. Fr Dom Henrice Pacomez elected the first Prince-Abbot and recognised as such by the French government and the Roman Catholic Church. The dignity of Prince-Abbot is of the same character as the Papal titles of prince-abbot and prince-bishop which historically carried with them territorial sovereignty.
Mgr. Raphaël Steck, our Prior for France, informs us that he was recently contacted by the “Librairie au Coin Littéraire” bookshop in Strasbourg where an exciting discovery had been made. The book in question is a Roman Missal dated 1702 – in itself a beautiful work.
However, it soon emerged that this Missal had once belonged to Prince-Abbot Joseph III. It bears his photograph, signature, stamp and dry seal. His signature is given as “J.R. Vilatte, Archevêque-Metropolitain”. This remarkable missal has been acquired and will be housed at the Centre Misericorde at Lingolsheim, which is the home of the Union Apostolique Gallicane and the French Priory of the San Luigi Orders.
The Abbey-Principality of San Luigi has entered into a Treaty of Friendship and Collaboration with the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (O.S.M.T.H.)
The Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem) continues the Templar tradition that was revived in France in 1705, reconstituted under Bernard Raymond Fabré-Palaprat in 1804, and recognized by the Emperor Napoléon I in 1805. It was under the leadership of Grand Master Fernando Campello Pinto Pereira de Sousa Fontes between 1960 and 2018. The present Grand Master is Fra Albino Neves.
The Prince-Abbot is a Knight Grand Cross of the Order.
The Italian Magistral Delegation of the Order maintains a website at http://www.cavalieritemplariosmth.it