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Famine in South Sudan and Kenya

Order of Malta special initiative against hunger

South Sudan-recultivating the fields
South Sudan-recultivating the fields

To combat the threat of famine overtaking large areas of South Sudan, and affecting over three million people, 1.4 million of whom are children, the Order of Malta’s international relief agency, Malteser International, is working with local partners to improve nutritionally-sensitive agriculture - a special initiative against hunger. Focus is on the communities of Maridi Central, Mambe and Ngamunde in the South Sudanese State of Western Equitoria.

Practical measures for life-giving support
Malteser International is providing tools and seeds, giving training in modem locally-adapted farming methods, and seek to revive veterinary medicine in the area. They also supply schools with teaching materials, and school gardens with seeds, plants and tools, so that agricultural education is once again part of the school curriculum. 

South Sudan: preparing the fields for crops
South Sudan: preparing the fields for crops

How you can make a difference
The Order of Malta’s Foreign Aid Service has so far raised £25,000 to support these desperate populations. Your continuing support will save many lives.
Your donation will aid Malteser International's work to combat famine and malnutrition in South Sudan and Kenya: www.justgiving.com/4sudan 

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Prince of Wales visits Order of Malta's Italian Emergency Service volunteers in earthquake striken Amatrice

His Royal Highness pays a surprise visit

HRH the Prince of Wales in Amatrice
HRH the Prince of Wales in Amatrice

The Order's Italian Emergency Service volunteers were congratulated by HRH the Prince of Wales on a surprise visit to their headquarters in Amatrice at the weekend. 

The Prince met with local authorities and senior members of the Order's Emergency Service. He talked with the volunteers about their experiences in caring for the shocked community, many of whom had lost family members in last August's earthquake which measured  6.2 on the Richter scale and devastated the small town. They were to suffer with a further 'quake in October. 

His Royal Highness visited 'Camp Zero' where victims had been taken for immediate support after the catastrophe, and were treated by the Order's first aid teams. He also laid a wreath at the memorial to those who had died. 

The Order's Emergency Service teams were on the ground within hours of the catastrophe and have remained to help rebuild the lives of the survivors.

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Caring for life's disadvantaged

Senior healthcare ministers of the Sovereign Order of Malta meet in Paris

key themes were discussed by the 75 participants
key themes were discussed by the 75 participants
The 25th annual meeting of senior healthcare ministers of the Order of Malta gathered this week in Paris for two days of intensive work, reviewing their 2016 programmes to help the poor and the sick in Europe, Asia and the Americas, and planning for the coming year. 

75 participants representing 32 Order organisations and nationalities were welcomed by the President of the Order’s French Association, Thierry Beaumont-Beynac and the French Hospitaller, Yann Baggio, who hosted the occasion. The meeting was chaired by the Grand Hospitaller of the Order, Dominique de la Rochefoucauld-Montbel, who invited the group to share the knowledge and experience gained in their own sectors, so that all could benefit. Also in attendance were the Grand Chancellor of the Order, Albrecht Boeselager, and Monseigneur Jean Laffitte, the Order’s Prelate. 

Key themes: the Order of Malta’s support for refugees and immigrants – from the country of origin, along the route to a new life, and in the host country on arrival. In Lebanon, the arrivals from Syria now make up almost a third of the population. They are referred to as Internally Displaced Persons and they are provided with shelter, medical and psycho-social care: it was noted that they cannot return to their home country because of the ongoing conflict there and thus the Order’s Lebanese Association, together with the international relief service of the Order, are providing as much support as possible – in a country which already has many resource problems.

A new initiative: the implementation of integration programmes, in particular in Austria, France and Germany. As well as providing basic medical care, these include offering language programmes to the recently arrived, after school support for the children, and help with obtaining the appropriate papers to remain in the host countries. The largest minority population in Europe is the Roma, or gypsies, for whom the Order of Malta has appointed an Ambassador at Large who is working with local Order organisations in a number of countries to assist with their integration into their local communities: special programmes are already underway in Romania, Albania and Slovakia. 

Homelessness: remains of great concern across the region and many Order organisations reported on the growth in the number of homeless people attending their soup kitchens in, for example, Belgium, Britain, Spain, France, Switzerland and Russia.

Prison ministry:  On the other side of the world, Order members in the United States are focussing on prison ministry, giving support to those in prison, to their families, and to life after incarceration ends, providing social and psychological support and helping them resume their lives in society, services which are not provided by the state. The programme runs in 36 States. 

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Preventing deaths in the Mediterranean

Order of Malta teams train Libyan Navy and Coast Guard instructors

 Order of Malta medicos train Libyan coast guard on the 'San Giorgio'
                    Order of Malta medicos train Libyan coastguards on board the 'San Giorgio'

A training programme to prevent migrant deaths in the Mediterranean sea has just been launched with the international participation of the Order of Malta, Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.

The aim : to train naval personnel in Libya, which is the departure point of the boats overloaded with migrants, and so to prevent these tragic deaths and counter the criminal networks controlling human smuggling and trafficking.

 In the first stage training, the Order of Malta participated in instructing 89 Libyans in ‘search and sea rescue’ on the Italian ‘San Giorgio’, as part of the European naval force operation EUNAVFOR MED Sophia.

The doctors of the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps have assisted some 50,000 migrants arriving by sea on the Italian coast since 2008. 

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Africa: Starvation threatens 1.4 million children

Malteser International in action in Kenya and South Sudan

South Sudan-Malteser International team trains locals in farming methods
South Sudan-Malteser International team trains locals in farming methods

The Order of Malta launches an appeal to support victims of famine and malnutrition in South Sudan and Kenya.

In the South Sudanese capital Juba, Malteser International, the international aid service of the Order of Malta, is providing 2,000 children with a warm meal each school day. 3,000 children in the city of Wau will also receive school meals in the immediate future.  

Hostilities in the country make conditions for agriculture increasingly difficult, and cause the price of basic foodstuffs to increase wildly. Malteser International is helping local people with the cultivation of vegetables and cereals. So that displaced people in Wau have access to clean drinking water, Malteser International has sunk eighteen boreholes to supply camps in the area, where around 45,000 displaced people are living in very close quarters 

Conditions for the 2.7 million people in northern Kenya also continue to worsen, with no rain for months in many areas. The situation in Marsabit is especially dire: over half of the county’s children are undernourished. People in the area depend almost exclusively on cattle husbandry, and eighty percent of their livestock is already dead – so they have no means to buy food nor to feed themselves from their animals. The local health station supported by Malteser International is currently distributing food supplements to undernourished children, as well as beans and cornmeal to feed 2,500 families. 

The United Nations has reported that starvation threatens more than a million children in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan. Conditions in other countries Africa are also worsening – with growing hunger caused by months of drought leaving children amongst the most badly affected.

How you can help: Your donation will aid Malteser International's work to combat famine and malnutrition in South Sudan and Kenya: www.justgiving.com/4sudan

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Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu writes to the members of the Order

First address of the Pope's Special Delegate

Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu
Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu
From the Vatican, 15 February 2017 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A few days having passed since my nomination as the Holy Father’s Special Delegate to your Order, I wish to offer each of you my cordial greetings. Above all, I convey to you the blessing of the Pope and the assurance that he has the good of the Order at heart, as well as its peace and spiritual renewal. For this he is praying ardently. 

From the moment the Holy Father entrusted me with this appointment, I have sought to be close to you in prayer and to deepen my knowledge of your history and presence in the world today. Your witness to charity, which has shone forth since your founding, is truly edifying.

It is well known that, over the centuries, the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta has made invaluable contributions through hospital work, numerous humanitarian activities, admirable assistance to refugees and migrants, timely interventions following natural disasters, effective prevention of the spreading of epidemics, and social aid marked by protection of the weakest. The many aspects which have characterized and continue to characterize the Order’ s mission in defence of human dignity, represent the greatest heritage of the Maltese Order, a heritage which must be protected and developed.

All the good you are carrying out reflects a true expression of your Constitutional Charter, whose purpose is thus summarized: “The promotion of the glory of God through the sanctification of its Members, service to the Faith and the Holy Father, and assistance to one’s neighbour”.

I am convinced that “giving and promoting glory to God” must be the guiding star of our actions and the sole justification for being a member of the Order of Malta. All members are therefore invited, whatever their degree of membership in the Order, to give God first place in their personal and public life. When God is given first place we develop those attitudes that are most beneficial to us: a sincere conversion of heart; a commitment to questioning whether our every action is oriented towards giving glory to God; a personal and communitarian examination of conscience to determine whether we are able to put aside individual or group interests, so that the greater good of the Order may prevail.

My work, to be carried out in dose collaboration with the Lieutenant ad interim, His Excellency the Venerable Bailiff Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, seeks to benefit from the cooperation of everyone, and has -as the Holy Father requested of me -the goal of promoting harmony among the religious, clerical and lay constituents of the Order.

I am resolved, therefore, as a primary objective, to establish a constructive dialogue among all members, so that we can clearly see the problems needing to be resolved and can identify solutions in order to face the present situation in an atmosphere of serenity and dedicated cooperation. To this end I will examine, with the Lieutenant ad interim, the appropriate steps to be taken, in which I intend to involve you. 

In expressing these thoughts and intentions, I wish to thank you for your prayerful support, and I invite all of you to renew your shared and undivided confidence in the Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and your Founder Blessed Gerard.

Angelo Becciu
Special Delegate 

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The government of the Order of Malta to convene the Council Complete of State on 29 April to elect the successor of the Grand Master

The electing body will meet in the Order’s Magistral Villa in Rome

Magistral Villa, Aventine Hill, Rome
Magistral Villa, Aventine Hill, Rome
On 29 April the Council Complete of State, the Order’s constitutional body, will elect the next Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta (or, as provided for in the Constitution, a Lieutenant of the Grand Master, to hold office for a year). Following the resignation of the 79th Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, on 28 January, the government of the Order of Malta – the Sovereign Council – met this morning in Rome, and established the April date. 

The Council Complete of State will meet in the Election Chamber in the Magistral Villa in Rome, the extraterritorial seat of the Order of Malta.

The election of a Grand Master requires a vote of the majority plus one, according to Article 23 of the Constitutional Charter. Sixty members of the Order are eligible to vote: the Lieutenant ad interim, the members of the Sovereign Council, the Prelate of the Order, the professed bailiffs, two professed knights from each Priory, five Regents of the Sub-Priories and fifteen representatives of the National Associations.  

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Lieutenant ad interim and Grand Chancellor meet Monsignor Becciu

Conference with the diplomatic corps on government priorities

In conference with the accredited diplomatic corps
In conference with the accredited diplomatic corps

This morning the Grand Chancellor Albrecht Boeselager with the Grand Hospitaller Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel met the accredited diplomatic corps in the Magistral Villa in Rome to inform the participants of government priorities after the recent events involving the Order of Malta. Boeselager outlined what led to the resignation of the Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing on 28 January . “Our attention is now focussed on our extensive diplomatic network with the aim of further developing our medical and humanitarian programmes,” the Grand Chancellor told the crowded audience of the Order’s accredited ambassadors and diplomats.

He noted that the crises throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East demand an increasingly strong humanitarian presence and stressed the Order of Malta’s commitment to extend its outreach in the areas most affected by wars and violence, such as Syria and Iraq.

Boeselager restated the Order of Malta’s loyalty to Pope Francis and announced that, after the meeting, he would accompany the Lieutenant ad interim Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein to the Vatican to meet the new special delegate appointed by the Pope, Monsignor Giovanni Angelo Becciu. 

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Pope Francis appoints his Special Delegate to the Order of Malta

Welcomed by the Order, Archbishop Becciu will work closely with the Lieutenant a.i


Archbishop Becciu
Archbishop Becciu

The government of the Order welcomes Archbisop Becciu and affirms: ‘We look forward to a fruitful and constructive collaboration.’

As stated in His Holiness’ letter of 2 February 2017, the tasks the Archbishop will undertake  ‘everything related to the spiritual and moral renewal of the Order, especially the professed members.’ The Delegate will work in close collaboration with the Lieutenant a.i. and together they will be responsible for developing ‘a study in view of the appropriate spiritual renovation’ of the Order’s Constitution and Code.

Until his mandate concludes, which will be at the end of the Extraordinary Chapter General which will be convened to approve the amendments to the Constitution, the Delegate will be the official spokesman in all relations between the Holy See and the Order of Malta.

Archbishop Becciu is Sardinian, a canon lawyer, and a former Papal representative in a number of countries: Central African Republic, Sudan, New Zealand, Liberia, United Kingdom, France and the United States and Nuncio most recently in Cuba. In addition to his native Italian, he speaks English, French, Portugese and Spanish.

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Declaration of the Sovereign Order of Malta on government priorities

Press conference outlines priorities

Rome - Press conference
Rome - Press conference
The government has restored leadership in line with the Constitution of the Order. 

In a press conference today the government of the Sovereign Order of Malta outlined its priorities, following the resignation of Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing on Saturday 28 January. Grand Chancellor Albrecht Boeselager stated: “Together with the Lieutenant ad interim we are governing the Order according to our Constitution, united and efficient.” 

The government emphasised the Order’s loyalty to the Holy Father and confirmed the Order’s willingness to collaborate with the Special Delegate. On behalf of the government, Boeselager thanked Pope Francis for his guidance, which helped end the government crisis. He observed that in all his decisions the Pontiff showed respect for the Order of Malta, while at the same time acknowledging in all his actions the sovereignty of the Order.

The government also thanked the members of the Papal Commission for the rapid delivery of their report. It regrets unfounded and baseless allegations of a conflict of interest raised against members of the Commission. As the current crisis in the Middle East and the Mediterranean demonstrates every day, the work of the Order has never been more relevant, nor more needed. “We will not allow the recent distractions in the government of the Order to jeopardise our humanitarian and socio-medical work,” said Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, Grand Hospitaller.

The resignation of the Grand Master opens a new phase in the life of the Order, and with renewed vigour the Order is concentrating fully on the enormous challenges in humanitarian diplomacy and the work on the ground.

Sovereignty and the Order’s diplomatic network play a pivotal role in the Order’s ability to serve people in need. The network, neutral and impartial, is an asset for the Catholic Church. A top priority for the Order’s government is the reinforcement of this network and the range of action of the Order’s current programmes. The government of the Order will remain focused on its cooperation and coordination with the UNHCR, the UN mission in Libya, the Mediterranean naval mission SOPHIA and the International Organization for migration, IOM. The government is currently assessing the evolving situation in Syria and is ready to increase its local engagement at the side of those in need, as soon as that becomes a possibility. One of the Order’s medical teams is currently involved in an important training mission on board the ship San Giorgio, part of Operation SOPHIA in the Mediterranean. The aim is to train Libyan coast guards and members of the Libyan navy in ‘Search and Rescue’ operations at sea.
The humanitarian activity of the Order of Malta is carried out in 120 countries around the world. The work of around 100,000 people – members, volunteers and medical personnel – continues unabated.

We are alarmed and concerned by the proliferation of discriminatory positions towards immigrants, not least, those based on their national origin. History has already provided us with many examples showing the dramatic and monstrous consequences of policies based on origin and race. Likewise, the Government takes a strong stance against the increasing disregard for the humanitarian laws encoded in the Geneva Conventions ratified by the family of nations.

Albrecht Boeselager: “Not only are the norms being increasingly ignored by State and non-State actors, but they are being publicly challenged and disputed. As an observer to the UN and other multilateral entities, we will continue to raise our voice in this context.”

The election of the Grand Master’s successor will take place within the next three months, as provided for in the Constitution of the Order of Malta. The Lieutenant ad interim, Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, will convene the Council Complete of State, the electing body, which is made up of an international representation of members of the Order. They will meet in the Order’s Magistral Villa in Rome. 

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A letter from Fra'Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein

The Lieutenant ad interim addresses all members and friends of the Sovereign Order of Malta

Excellencies, dear members of the Order of Malta, dear volunteers, employees, friends and associates,

On Saturday afternoon, 28 January 2017, the Sovereign Council accepted the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing from the office of Grand Master. We are grateful to Fra’ Matthew in his generous response to the request of the Holy Father to resign his position for the good of the Order of Malta. We appreciate the many good things he has done for our Order.

We are also most grateful to the Holy Father and the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for their interest in and care for our Order. We will be pleased to work with the Delegate whom the Holy Father intends to appoint to consult with us. He will help to nurture and inspire the religious aspects of the Order, and possibly issues of reform that will need to be addressed after the forthcoming elections. We are grateful to the Holy Father for all his decisions so carefully taken with regard to and respect for the Order, with a determination to strengthen our Sovereignty. In this and all matters, we will not yield in our loyalty to the Pope. We are grateful to the members of the group appointed by the Holy Father. They have worked diligently during these recent weeks to advise His Holiness with integrity and in honesty.

As Lieutenant ad interim, according to Art 17 § 1 of our Constitution, I am now charged with the duty of leading the Order, along with the Sovereign Council. Together with the Sovereign Council I will soon convene the Council Complete of State.

I have annulled the decrees establishing disciplinary procedures against Albrecht Boeselager and the suspension of his membership in the Order. He will resume his office as Grand Chancellor immediately. There is no basis for any charges against him, and I commend him for respectfully insisting on the due application of our Constitution and Code.

We call on all of you to work together in unity, to concentrate on executing our mission of tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum. We count on the good will of all to look to the future and to build an even stronger Order to tackle the material and spiritual needs of the world. We are thankful to all of you who fulfil this task every day, unceasingly. We know that for many of you at the Grand Magistry and around the world the last six weeks have been difficult. I thank you for your loyalty to our Order during this time.

Together with my colleagues in the government of the Order we ask for your prayers, that the Holy Spirit may guide us to take the right decisions for the forthcoming elections and for the future.

 Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein
Lieutenant ad interim 

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Grand Master Fra’Matthew Festing resigns from office

Lieutenant ad interim assumes the role of head of the Order of Malta

Fra' Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein
Fra' Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein

The government of the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Sovereign Council, today accepted the resignation of the 79th Grand Master, Fra’Matthew Festing. Lieutenant ad interim Fra’Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein is appointed to lead the Order until the election of a new Grand Master. 

In a letter sent yesterday, 27 January 2017, to Fra’ Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein and the members of the Sovereign Council, Pope Francis reaffirmed the special relationship between the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Apostolic See. The Pope affirmed that the Lieutenant ad interim assumes responsibility over the Order’s government, in particular regarding relationships with other States. Pope Francis will appoint a Special Delegate to the Sovereign Order. The Order assures its full collaboration with the Delegate.  

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Eye walk-in clinic in Jerusalem, where the Order’s first hospital was established in the 12th century

The hospital is managed by the Most Venerable Order of Saint John of Jerusalem thanks to an agreement with the Holy Family Hospital

Jerusalem - the eye clinic carries on traditional care for those in need
Jerusalem - the eye clinic carries on traditional care for those in need

Layla is a 9-year-old Palestinian who enjoys playing and running in the open air. When she was 7, her parents – an almond farmer and a housewife from a city in the North West Bank – noticed she couldn’t see well. They took her to the local doctor who referred them to the St John Clinic in Anabta, the ophthalmic hospital located in Muristan Street, in the Old City of Jerusalem. She underwent surgery and completely recovered her eyesight which had been fading progressively due to a mature bilateral cataract.

In this same location in the 12th century the knights of Saint John of Jerusalem - today known as the Order of Malta - guided by founder Blessed Gerard established their first hospital, providing health care to pilgrims of all faiths arriving in the Holy Land. The hospital had different units depending on the nature of the illness and condition of the patient – similar to the arrangements in a modern hospital. In an emergency, the hospital could accept as many as 2,000 patients. The Order’s hospitallers treated patients of different religions with respect and dignity, whoever they were and wherever they came from.

Centuries later, the hospitaller tradition continues. This beautiful traditional building provides primary and emergency eye care for residents and tourists in the Old City. Many who live here are stallholders, who can rarely afford to travel long distances. The movement restrictions between the Old City and the outskirts of Jerusalem also make it hard for residents to move freely. The clinic provides easy access to eye care whilst also addressing the problem of residents who cannot attend follow-up visits at the main hospital located in the outskirts of the city and which is wholly owned by the Most Venerable Order of St John.

In October 2016, the Holy Family Hospital, the maternity hospital in Bethlehem managed by the Order of Malta, signed an agreement with the Order of St John of Jerusalem to enhance the provision of eye care, with the opening of the walk-in clinic. The facility, managed by the British charity, is expected to see around 5,500 patients a year. Around 33,000 Palestinians live in the Old City of Jerusalem. They face daily restrictions of movement to the outside section of the city. With the population increasing every year, there is no single ophthalmic service available within the walls of the city. The hospital is a member of the World Association 

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The Order's Italian Relief Corps aid earthquake victims in Central Italy

Heavy snow hampers the rescue operations

Italian Relief Corps team go to the assistance of elderly earthquake victim
Italian Relief Corps team go to the assistance of elderly earthquake victim

Teams from the Order's Italian Relief Corps have arrived in Montreale, epicentre of yesterday's four strong earthquakes, and where 400 tremors have been felt in 24 hours. Tasked with searching the outlying areas for the disabled and elderly trapped in their homes by the heavy snow, the teams have been able to bring them to the emergency shelter in Montreale and provide them with food, warmth and beds. 

Extended aid for earthquake victims
Since 24 August to date over 700 volunteers of the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps have been deployed for the emergencies caused by the latest quakes in central Italy. They have assisted some 2,000 people housed in the sports facilities used as reception centres and have set up a field kitchen which has delivered 600 meals daily for a month. The professionals present included healthworkers, psychologists, first aiders in the red zone and technical staff dealing with formalities for the Municipal Operations Centre and operational plans as well as the distribution of food and medicines in the outlying districts of Amatrice, Muccia, San Severino Marche and Norcia. 

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Grand Master addresses the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Order

Exchange of traditional new year greetings and good wishes

Grand Master addresses the Diplomatic Corps
Grand Master addresses the Diplomatic Corps 

At the traditional exchange of new year greetings, the Grand Master welcomed the Ambassadors accredited to the Sovereign Order. In his address he reviewed the year's projects and activities around the world. 

The Grand Master's address in full:
 Mr Doyen, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The welcoming words with which I address you today are much more than a simple formality. The tradition of exchanging greetings at the start of a new year of working together is the demonstration of the credit and value attributed to each of you, as experts in international relations. Diplomacy is a vital dimension of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

I wish to thank the Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Pavel Vosalik, for his kind words, and I greet you all very warmly, particularly the ambassadors who are attending this Audience for the first time. This meeting offers me the opportunity to review with you the humanitarian challenges of this past year – challenges that the world, and our Order, have faced in so many parts of the globe.

Guided by faith in Christ along the difficult paths of human history, the Order has never experienced a time when its humanitarian work was so demanding and challenging.

The world is facing an ever-increasing disregard of international human rights. In war zones, indiscriminate bombing targeting schools and hospitals is forcing millions of people to abandon their homeland. Figures change by the hour in war-torn Aleppo, Syria, devastated by five years of relentless war. Those who have remained in the city have very little means for survival left. The atrocities of the war have led to comparisons with some of the darkest moments in recent history: Srebrenica, Grozny, Guernica.

The rules of war – encoded in the Geneva Conventions – have been systematically disregarded in Syria and elsewhere. Far from the television crews, fighting continues unabated in Yemen and South Sudan, and humanitarian principles are jettisoned. The majority of migrants held in Libyan detention centres, many of them women, have been tortured and subjected to all forms of violation and deprivation.

A vigorous and radical reaffirmation of international humanitarian law and the promotion of human rights are the keys to stopping these atrocities. Faith-based institutions and organisations can play an important role in this respect. Religions often share common values and principles which are embedded in their founding doctrines and teachings.

2016 was marked by geo-political crises and emergencies, but also crossed by a long thread of calamities, wars and terrorist acts, and natural disasters. In this last, I am referring particularly to the violent earthquakes that have shaken Italy this past year. Reacting in just hours after the 24 August and 30 October devastations which attacked the central part of the peninsula, our Italian Relief Corps volunteers, and the Order’s Military Corps, were on the move. In Amatrice, Norcia, Macerata and the other towns and villages affected by the earthquake, rescuers, psychologists and health workers gave assistance, offered psychological support and distributed basic necessities to the bewildered and displaced.

But Italy is also in the midst of another emergency – that of the migration flows which have been crossing Europe for some years now. Led on by unscrupulous traffickers, desperate masses risk their lives in the Mediterranean, where little is needed to transform a crossing, full of uncertainties, into a journey which has no guaranteed arrival. This is why – and where – the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps has been working: from the island of Lampedusa, since 2008. Our doctors and nurses are specialised in aiding migrants at sea, guaranteeing a highly qualified service day and night. In 2016, over 31,000 people crossing the Mediterranean were assisted by our Italian volunteers. During my visit to the Quirinal Palace in October, the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, on learning of these significant results, asked me to pass on his praise and recognition to our volunteers.

The Italian front is only one of many where we are tackling the refugee emergency. This global problem has become one of the most complex and dramatic issues of our times. Over 65 million people have been forced to leave their homes: through conflict, famine, dictatorships or religious fundamentalisms, and to undertake dangerous ‘journeys of hope’ in search of a better life. In this alarming scenario, the Order of Malta is active with its network of Associations, Embassies, relief corps and volunteers, offering first aid and emergency aid, and providing long-term development projects in the countries of origin, transit and/or arrival. Many of these interventions are concentrated in the Middle East. In particular, we are providing aid in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, in field hospitals, medical centres and mobile clinics, assisting 170,000 wounded and sick. On the continent of Africa, we run hygiene and sanitation projects for 21,000 refugees and disadvantaged in the Democratic Republic of Congo; we distribute food to internally displaced persons in South Sudan and to those in the refugee camps in Uganda. In Asia we run healthcare projects for refugees in Myanmar and Thailand, and give psychosocial support to refugees. In Europe we are supporting victims of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Whilst it is too complex for me to describe all our interventions here, I observe that they touch many other significant countries and regions in this boundless ‘geography of need’. In these areas, we are involved in a wide range of initiatives, such as medical and social assistance, the distribution of medicines, food, assessing basic needs, schools for children and services for disabled migrants. Continuous work goes on behind emergency front lines. An example is the extensive network of 140 facilities with which the Order in Germany, together with the federal and municipal institutions, carries on a 25-year-old practice of assistance and integration for migrants and refugees.
Migration is a complex, multifaceted phenomenon. A real demographic revolution is going on in the world today. In the wake of a steady population growth in Africa, we are witnessing an ever-decreasing demographic trend in Europe. What are the implications and what is the scale of the challenge? Finding shared strategies to address both the challenges and the opportunities is an imperative for the international community.

As stated recently in a seminar organised by our Embassy to the Holy See, in most cases it is the women who suffer most in the context of migration. They are often forced into slavery or prostitution, and subjected to physical and psychological violence along the treacherous journey to another country.
The efforts involved in the exceptional nature of the migration phenomenon should not let us forget the poverty that exists beside us every day. During the Holy Year of Mercy, our Order, through the Grand Priory of Rome, stepped up its assistance and solidarity efforts in the streets, in food banks and in social centres, as well as in the established soup kitchens for the poor. Latest annual figures: 210,000 hot meals offered, over 11,000 people assisted and almost 3000 tons of food distributed, plus activities such as medical assistance and contributions to families in difficulty. As you know, any review of the Order’s humanitarian activities in 120 countries covers extremely different contexts, ranging from medical programmes to water supply projects, from assistance to the disabled to hospital work. The Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, in the heart of a conflict-torn land, continues to be a beacon of hope for thousands of expectant mothers and infants of different races and religions. Now, thanks to the management of Ordre de Malte France, and the support of several government and aid agencies, the hospital also has specific programmes to protect mothers from one of the major diseases of the century – diabetes, a silent killer, especially in low-income countries where diagnosis and treatment is lacking. I also wish to mention the awareness campaign Malteser International, our international relief agency, has launched in Colombia for containing the Zika virus; and the work undertaken at the Saint Jean de Malte Hospital in Njombé, Cameroon, where the Order is running a programme treating Malaria and AIDs patients. I will be visiting Cameroon at the end of January in an official visit and I look forward to seeing at firsthand our work in that country.
The year just ended has also been significant for the diplomatic activity of our Order. With our participation in the World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul on the initiative of the United Nations Secretary General, the Order’s intervention emphasised the value of the contribution of faith-based institutions and organisations in humanitarian action. We stressed that, in crisis situations, the most reliable first responders for local communities are very often the faith-based organisations. For this reason we called for a closer inter-religious dialogue as fundamental in helping the victims in these situations. To code a new ‘grammar’ of coexistence and altruism for our times, so scarred by terrorism and conflicts, is not only a hope, but a real possibility. We are attentive interlocutors for those who share this conviction. We demonstrated this in February with a series of meetings in Brussels with European Union institutional leaders, which focussed on the refugee crisis. Then, in September, the Order of Malta participated in the 71st United Nations General Assembly High Level meeting on Migration.

Earlier in the year, a strategy meeting was held here at the Magistral Villa, between the Order’s high officers and representatives of the Libyan government and Parliament. The great unknowns – the refugee crisis, human trafficking, infiltration of extremist militias linked with Daesh – were debated with United Nations and European Union delegates. The future of Libya, strategic crossroad of the migrant routes, and the stability of the political normalisation process – launched with the installation of Premier Al Sarraj – is linked to the resolution of these uncertainties. A testimony to the importance of a joint approach of states and institutions to tackling major emergencies, is operation Sophia, which is the European mission launched in the Mediterranean in 2015 to disrupt human smuggling and trafficking along the migration route, starting from Libya. An Order delegation visited the aircraft carrier Garibaldi, flagship of operation Sophia.
At the institutional level, our agenda over the past year has also included excellent opportunities for dialogue, both inside and outside the Order of Malta, starting with the regional meetings held throughout 2016: the Meso-American Conference in Panama in February, the international Hospitallers Conference in Malta in March, and two autumn conferences: in Vilnius with the Order’s organisations and embassies in central and eastern Europe, and the Asia-Pacific Conference held in Seoul.
The Order’s international relations included the signing of a number of significant cooperation agreements: with the Republic of Albania on shared projects in the hospital, education and civil defence fields; an accord on medical training and vocational support between the ‘Bambino Gesù’ Children’s Hospital in Rome, which belongs to the Holy See, and our Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem. Two other significant cooperation agreements were signed with Gabon and Belarus.

In terms of bilateral relations, I had a number of official meetings with heads of states and governments which have, thanks to the fruitful collaboration with you, enabled me to reinforce bonds and cooperation with various countries, to provide medical and humanitarian assistance. As well as my visit to the Italian head of state, which provided an opportunity for a mutual in-depth analysis of the international crisis hotspots, I had an intense schedule of state visits to Central America in February, travelling to El Salvador, Honduras and Panama. In discussions with their institutional authorities, I was pleased to reassert the importance of further synergies for healthcare, social services, and the prevention of natural disasters linked to climate change. Also during the year, I had constructive meetings in the Magistral Palace, with the President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, with the Slovenian President, Borut Pahor, and with the President of Albania, Bujar Nishani on his State Visit. In October, my state visit to Armenia included talks with President Serzh Sargsyan and a cordial meeting with Patriarch Karekin II.

The Order helped to organise in the Vatican an international convention on treating people affected by Hansen’s disease (leprosy), a traditional healthcare concern of the Order. We also hosted a meeting with the delegates of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy – a committee of high representatives of European, American and Canadian governments – to analyse the increasingly close links between religion and international relations.

 I cannot conclude without mentioning the Jubilee of Mercy, which has been a unique opportunity for spiritual development, for the whole Catholic world. As Pope Francis writes in his encyclical Lumen Fidei, “Suffering reminds us that faith’s service to the common good is always one of hope.” It is precisely to fulfil this hope that so many of us were asked to make an exceptional effort to aid the pilgrims coming from all over the world to Rome during this Extraordinary Holy Year. 1,800 Order volunteers alternated daily in the first-aid posts set up in the four major basilicas. Faith and devotion were also much in evidence in September when 120,000 packed into St. Peter’s Square for the canonisation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: her example of untiring service to those in need is an inspiration for the entire voluntary service. In the words of this great interpreter of Christian charity: “It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”
Finally, I would like to emphasise to you and the governments you represent, that the substitution of the Grand Chancellor at the beginning of last December was an act of internal administration of the Sovereign Order of Malta’s government. It therefore falls exclusively within the institutional powers of the Order. I guarantee that this replacement will not affect the relations with the countries you represent in any way, much less with the daily operations of the Order of Malta. Our decentralised nature ensures that our activities assisting people in difficulty and need, continues unaffected in the 120 countries where the Order of Malta operates.
 Dear Ambassadors,
At the start of this new year, in our shared pledge, may I once again thank you for helping to promote the Sovereign Order of Malta’s humanitarian commitment. One of my illustrious countrymen, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, thus describes this ancient institution: “God has created me to do Him some definite service…. I have my mission….. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons…. I shall do good; I shall do His work”.

As long as pain and hardship exist on humanity’s path, we shall maintain our efforts to combat them.

 To all of you, to your families and to the nations you represent my very best wishes for 2017. May it be rich in spiritual grace, in which peace and mercy can grow, as a sign of hope for those near and far whom you represent here today. 

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A new Knight of Justice takes his vows in Cambridge

A tradition that dates back centuries

Fra'Max Rumney takes his solemn vows, Magdalene College chapel, Cambridge
Fra'Max Rumney takes his solemn vows, Magdalene College chapel, Cambridge

In the beautiful fifteenth century chapel of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and In the presence of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’Matthew Festing, Fra’Max Rumney took his final vows in a traditional ceremony to become a Professed knight. The celebrant was Fr.David Irwin, the Order’s Principal Chaplain, and friends and members of the Order in Britain made up the packed congregation. 
Magdalene College chapel, Cambridge
Magdalene College chapel, Cambridge

 A Professed Knight - the meaning of the symbols in the ceremony
The Grand Master receives the vows of the new Fra’ (brother), explaining the symbolism of the ceremony: a sword given to the new Professed knight represents his protection of his faith; spurs for his shoes, to spur him on to greater efforts in his service to those in need; and a stola, traditional in religious ceremonies and here representing the yoke of St John Baptist, the patron saint of the Order and the Passion of Christ. 

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