BETHLEHEMITES: The name of three religious orders. (1) An association of Bethleemitæ, known only from Matthew Paris (Hist. maj., 839), who states that they existed at Cambridge, England, about 1257 and wore the Dominican habit, with a red star, referring to Matt. ii, 9-10. (2) The Knights and Hospitalers of the Blessed Mary of Bethlehem (Religio militaris ac hospitalis beatæ Mariæ Bethlemitanæ), founded by Pius II in 1459 to fight against the Turks. They wore a white habit with a red cross, were given the island of Lemnos as their seat, and did not survive the capture of the island by the Turks in the year of their foundation. (3) More important are the Bethlehem Brothers (Fratres Bethlemitæ; Spanish, Orden de Belemitas) of Guatemala (Central America), founded there about 1650 by Pierre de Bethencourt and after his death (1667) under the leadership of the brothers Rodrigo and Antonio de la Cruz. Originally entrusted only with the care of the hospital of Mary of Bethlehem in Guatemala, the order was confirmed by Innocent XI in 1687 and given a constitution and dress like that of the Capuchins. Clement XI in 1707 granted them the privileges of the mendicant orders. A society of Sisters of Bethlehem was founded in Guatemala by Anna Maria del Galdo in 1668, and both the male and female branches spread in Mexico, Peru, and elsewhere. A secularization-decree of the Spanish Cortes in 1820 suppressed both branches.
O. ZÖCKLER †.