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2015

New approach to refugee challenge proposed - Sovereign Order of Malta launches international awareness campaign and a call for action

Order of Malta organisations around the world, rescue corps and volunteers unite to highlight the global drama and propose more constructive approach

Syrian refugees in Order of Malta centre in Lebanon
Syrian refugees in Order of Malta centre in Lebanon

Grand Chancellor of the Order calls for action: click here for his recent interview

New forms of cooperation between countries of origin and refugee destinations are called for in a strongly worded initiative by the Sovereign Order of Malta, a prominent provider of care to the displaced for over 20 years. “Present policies are not working and they place refugees at risk,” warns Albrecht Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Order, who has 25 years’ experience of running the Order’s international relief operations. 

“The drama of refugees will not cease over the coming decade. It is no use erecting walls and barriers,” he adds. “Faced with this drama and the desperation of millions of people, we now have to adopt new humanitarian assistance schemes, new forms of cooperation with the countries of origin and which also take into account the asymmetric wars currently being fought by forces that do not represent states.” 

An international symposium on this key concern held by the Order in Geneva last month identified both points of failure and constructive approaches. Delegates of major agencies including the UNHCR and representatives from a range of United Nations and international aid organisations, as well as faith-based organisations, including KAICIID (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) and CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), agreed on the urgent need to promote cooperation between states and international organisations. 
Lampedusa: Order of Malta medical team in action
Lampedusa: Order of Malta medical team in action
The Order will now lobby both for cooperation and for specific policies via its diplomatic representation with over 100 countries and through participation in the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit, to be held in Istanbul next May, as well as at the preparatory meetings in Geneva this autumn. 

The number of refugees and displaced persons worldwide has reached levels not recorded since the end of World War II. In Syria, over four years of conflict now mean that a family is forced to leave home every 60 seconds. It is calculated that every 3 seconds a person becomes displaced in some part of the world. Over 50 million people are in flight from disasters, wars and famine. Half of them are children. 

Some 17 million are refugees, over 33 million are internally displaced - that is, forced to leave their homes although staying in their country - and about 1.5 million are asylum seekers. In 2014, there were 866,000 new asylum applications in the industrialised countries - the majority were Syrians followed by Iraqis. Numbers that reflect a world in flames with burgeoning new crises and old trouble spots flaring up. 

World Refugee Day, established ten years ago by the UN General Assembly, will be celebrated on Saturday 20 June 2015. This year, the Sovereign Order of Malta is launching a campaign in the many countries where it is present, to raise public awareness of this worldwide drama. All the Order of Malta’s organisations will draw attention to the world refugee problem through social media and information channels. 

Present in 120 countries with 80,000 volunteers, 33 Rescue Corps, a worldwide relief agency - Malteser International, 59 organisations worldwide, and an established diplomatic network with over 100 countries, the Sovereign Order of Malta is on the front line offering assistance to refugees and displaced people, both in the countries involved in the conflicts and in the final destinations of asylum seekers. 

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‘180 million people worldwide are affected by conflict. These issues affect all of us, whoever we are and wherever we come from.’

Grand Chancellor of the Order of Malta, Albrecht Boeselager, at Order of Malta symposium on the victims of armed conflicts and the role of faith based actors

Symposium panel members debate - Sen.Frattini, Grand  Chancellor Beoselager, Dr Mahmoud, Grand Hospitaller de La  Rochefoucauld-27May15
Symposium panel members debate - Sen.Frattini, Grand Chancellor Beoselager, Dr Mahmoud, Grand Hospitaller de La Rochefoucauld-27May15

The Sovereign Order of Malta yesterday hosted a keynote symposium at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva. Speakers from across the spectrum of faith based organisations, diplomacy and humanitarian aid made up a panel to discuss: Religions together for humanitarian action: Reaching out to victims of armed conflicts – the special role of faith based actors. The symposium is a preparatory stage in the build-up to the World Humanitarian Summit, launched by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, which will be held in May 2016 in Istanbul.

The Grand Chancellor of the Order, Albrecht Boeselager, set the pace for the day, emphasising to the 500 participants from the worlds of diplomacy, non-governmental organisations, actors in the field of humanitarian assistance and academics, that faith based organisations have a potentially crucial role in armed conflict situations. That crucial role is multi-faceted: in the protection of civilians caught up in armed conflicts, in mediation, in supporting and working for reconciliation and in protecting the victims of armed conflicts. He stressed that they also have a crucial role in promoting peace. And he noted the need to emphasise the common understanding of human rights.

The added value of faith based organisations
The panel looked at how these concerns should be viewed by faith based organisations, at how these organisations can provide added value in conflict situations and considered possible strategic and practical steps.
Discussion highlights: central focus must always be on human beings. Faith based organisations share values of humanity and dignity but need to find a common ground through initiatives – although there are examples of collaboration - to counteract the instrumentalisation of religion; religious power cannot be evoked to justify violence; dialogue is always essential; peace building initiatives are effective through faith based organisations; actors need a formation in spirituality, wisdom, humanity; creating trust between faith based organisations and the local communities is key in the resolution stages; good communications are an essential component. Operationally, the panel identified a need for a concrete Code of Conduct/Practice ; acknowledged lack of aid resources and need to increase private sector involvement; agreed good communications are an essential component on the ground, as is a sympathetic approach to local communities and their traditions and culture.

 The Grand Hospitaller of the Order, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, MInister for Health and International Cooperation for the Order, closed the event with a strongly worded summary which reflected the views of the day. He called for redoubled efforts to build closer partnerships among faith based organisations to create truly effective support for the victims of conflict situations, the pooling of resources to carry this forward, a sympathetic support for the culture and traditions of local communities in helping them return to normal life, and the creation of the widest possible campaign for public awareness of the human rights due to these affected populations.  

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Religions together for humanitarian action

Reaching out to victims of armed conflicts – the special role of faith based actors

Tomorrow at the United Nations in Geneva, the Order of Malta hosts a symposium which will look at the problems humanitarian actors encounter in the field, the role of faith based organisations to mediate, support and work for reconciliation, their crucial role in promoting peace, the need to protect the victims of armed conflicts and the need to emphasise the common understanding of human rights. 

A panel of experts who represent a wide range of faiths: Muslim, Vedanta, Judaism, and the Christian faiths, as well as a wide range of expertise in international humanitarian law, foreign aid, diplomacy and conflict resolution will debate these crucial concerns. 

The symposium is a first participatory stage for the World Humanitarian Summit, launched by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon in 2013 and which is scheduled for May 2016 in Istanbul. 

Preview the event – follow the links below:
 An interview with the President of the International Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B06WhKnBJzAbRElxbVh6dTFwb1E/view?usp=sharing  

An interview with Amb. Slimane Chikh, Permanent Observer of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to the UN Geneva: https://www.facebook.com/OrderofMalta/videos/10152765412611780/  

An interview with the Order of Malta’s head of worldwide charitable activies, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel: https://www.facebook.com/OrderofMalta/videos/10152767762341780/  

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Nepal: Order of Malta field hospital is set up in Sindhupalchok, near epicentre of second earthquake

Threat of the spread of disease among the survivors

Nepal: with danger from collapsing building, victims survive in temporary shelters
Nepal: with danger from collapsing building, victims survive in temporary shelters

Thousands are in temporary shelters in the area, there is imminent danger of possible landslides and the threat of spread of disease among the survivors in these perilous conditions. 

“There’s a smell of decay. And we expect more victims will be found under the rubble,” says leader of Malteser International’s medical team, Dr Marie Brenner, on the ground with assistants and volunteers after the second earthquake on 12 May. The organisation, the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief service, has established the project with the University Hospital in Dhulikel.

Nothing more to lose
Damage, to life, property and infrastructures is now spread wide, including over mountain villages, many inaccessible by road. A severely injured man, hit by falling masonry during the first earthquake, had been rushed to hospital two hours away. But when the second earthquake hit, his wife declared they had nothing more to lose: “Our home has already been destroyed.”
Nepal: Malteser International doctor provides medical care to small victim
Nepal: Malteser International doctor provides medical care to small victi

Where the hospital is sited
The field hospital is located near Lamosanghu, 130 km north east of Kathmandu and 40 km from the Chinese border. Malteser International will organise and supply the medical station so that diagnosis and treatment, as well as small surgeries can be performed. Malteser International is also distributing food and hygiene kits to the population of 12 villages in the region – aid for around 10,000 people. 

Counting your support
The Briitish Association of the Order has set up a special Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/basmom-4-nepal Alternatively, if you prefer to send a cheque, please make it payable to ‘BASMOM FAS’ and send to: BASMOM, 58 Grove End Road, LONDON NW8 9NE. Please mark the envelope ‘NEPAL’ 

Aid is sorely needed for the stricken victims. 
Your generous support has already reached $40,000. 

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Pilgrims, in sunshine and in rain, gather in Lourdes for the Order’s 57th international pilgrimage

British Association is over subscribed for the event

Lourdes - the basilica, Notre Dame du Rosaire
Lourdes - the basilica, Notre Dame du Rosaire

As the pilgrimage drew to a close, members from the British Association of the Order, the Grand Priory of England, the Companions of the Order, the Order of Malta Volunteers (OMV) and many volunteers and friends joined with their malades in acknowledging that this had been an exceptionally happy and fulfilling event. 

 The over-subscribed occasion was full of song and laughter as well as moments of quiet prayer and reflection. ‘I come because the spirit of the pilgrimage stays with me all year,’ said one wheelchair bound pilgrim. ‘It brings companionship, love, and among all of us, a sense of goodness and godliness.’ 

Photo: Julian Andrews

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Creating a homely environment for residents at just opened OSJCT Hayward Care Centre, Devizes

The ‘small household model’ provides a relaxed environment in dementia-specialist home

HRH the Duke of Edinburgh opens OSJCT Haycroft Care Centre, Devizes
HRH the Duke of Edinburgh opens OSJCT Haycroft Care Centre, Devizes

HRH the Duke of Edinburgh today opened the 80-bed home, observing that, at almost 94, he is older than the Home’s oldest resident. His Royal Highness toured the Home, remarking on the ‘Fifties themed’ environment which residents delight in, chatting with many of them, and with staff and distinguished guests, his irrepressible sense of humour much enjoyed by all. 

Chairman of the Orders of St John Homes Care Trust Don Wood, in welcoming the royal guest, noted that the building has been purpose built, offering a flexible environment which even includes a pub. OSJCT Care Manager Richard Hawes explained that the residents are involved in many aspects of life in the Home, including planning the menus ‘But these may or may not be fifties-style food!’ he added.

The Orders of St John Homes Care Trust (OSJCT) runs over 70 residential homes for old people in four counties, caring for 3500 with a staff of 4000. Dementia care is a special feature in many of the Homes.  

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Nepal earthquake: The casualty toll continues to rise

Malteser International in action in Kathmandu

Nepal earthquake: destruction at Lalitpur
Nepal earthquake: destruction at Lalitpur

Over the weekend Malteser International, the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief service, put its first staff on the ground in Kathmandu and dispatched over half a ton of medical supplies to aid stricken victims and hospitals with depleted supplies. The assessment team is in now in action, with more medical personnel to arrive in the next few days. 

The first team are already setting up aid measures in Gorkha, which is at the earthquake's epicentre, in the badly affected district of Dhulikhel, and treating patients in Kathmandu, at the airport and the German Embassy. One expert comments: "Some patients are so traumatised that cannot even tell us their name."

If you would like to make a donation, the Briitish Association of the Order has set up a special Just giving page: www.justgiving.com/basmom-4-nepal

Alternatively, if you prefer to send a cheque, please make it payable to ‘BASMOM FAS’ and send to:
BASMOM, 58 Grove End Road, LONDON NW8 9NE Please mark the envelope ‘NEPAL’ 
Thank you. 

Since September 2012 Malteser International has been working in Nepal  on projects to reduce the risk of damage from catastrophic flooding, and to improve the provision of basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in the country.

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Earthquake in Nepal: Order of Malta’s international relief service, Malteser International, sends assessment team

Emergency relief team arrives in Nepal today

Nepal-rescue workers pull a survivor from the rubble
Nepal-rescue workers pull a survivor from the rubble

First aid workers from Malteser International are on their way to Nepal. An assessment team was dispatched to the region this morning. On the ground, they will evaluate the situation and begin setting in motion the first emergency relief measures. The Nepalese government has declared a state of emergency and has called for international assistance. 

“Medical infrastructure on the ground has been overwhelmed: the hospitals are overflowing; they need medications and dressings. Support equipment isn’t there. People are digging in the rubble with their bare hands. Communication on the ground is difficult, mobile phones are barely functioning,” says Oliver Hochedez, Malteser International’s Emergency Relief Coordinator.

By this morning, the official death toll from Nepalese authorities is estimated at over 2,000, and expected to rise. The earthquake which struck Nepal on Saturday morning, its epicentre 80 km from the capital, Kathmandu, was 7.8 on the Richter scale. It was also felt in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. An aftershock of magnitude 6.7 was reported in the region this morning. 
Photo: Narendra Shendra/EPA.

Malteser International has been running projects in Nepal since September 2012. 

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Mediterranean migrant crisis: Grand Master calls for immediate action

Rome, 22 April 2015

Lampedusa: Order of Malta medical teams prepare to board a migrant boat
Lampedusa: Order of Malta medical teams prepare to board a migrant boat

Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, in acknowledging the work of the Order of Malta’s Italian Emergency Corps (CISOM) so deeply involved in the current migrant crisis off the coast of southern Italy, declared: ‘This shocking loss of life and this callous smuggling must stop. It behoves all civilised nations of every belief to set in place appropriate measures to help the desperate but also to exhort these criminals to cease their dreadful activities.

‘The Order of Malta has been working since 2008 with the Italian Coastguard, Guardia di Finanza and the Italian navy, providing medical assistance to the thousands of boat people arriving on these shores. Neither the Coastguard nor the Order of Malta were prepared for the torrents of immigrants we are seeing in these desperate weeks.’ 

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Order of Malta's Italian Emergency Corps rescue boat people off Lampedusa

But the nightmare continues

Lampedusa - Order of Malta Italian Emergency Corps (CISOM) tell their story
Lampedusa - Order of Malta Italian Emergency Corps (CISOM) tell their story

Lampedusa, 21 April 2015

Doctor Giuseppe Pomilla of the Order of Malta’s Italian Emergency Corps (CISOM) described the three hours he searched for the living among hundreds of dead floating corpses on Sunday night: 'It was like a nightmare. It was a cemetery. There were bodies everywhere you looked.

'At first it seemed there was no one alive. It was 1am and the sea was black. With my torch I could see only two or three metres ahead of the dinghy. But it was easy to see if people were dead because when you die of asphyxia your eyes go red.

'Everywhere was these red eyes, all young men. Most were in T-shirts and normal clothes but some were naked. Maybe the current washed their clothes away.'

Nurse Enrico Vitiello, part of the Order of Malta emergency team, cared for those who survived this nightmare. 

The Order of Malta has been working with the Italian Coastguard since 2008, giving medical aid to the stream of boat people. That stream has now become a torrent.  

Photo: Hannah Roberts Daily Mail

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Where companionship is also a staff of life

It’s not so much the food, but the warmth of the environment which matters to our guests who come to the St James’s Spanish Place soup kitchen each Thursday. That said, we still prepare 15 litres of soup every week; 8 litres of tea; 8 litres of coffee, 200 sandwiches and salad boxes; yogurt with honey; sweet pastries and cakes. Sometimes volunteers cook and bring things. In the summer there’s an ice-cream each.

A combined project of the British Association, together with the Companions of the Order of Malta who lead the project, the Grand Priory of England and the OMV (Order of Malta Volunteers).

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Order of Malta healthcare and social services leaders call for action: ‘We cannot say tomorrow. Your name is today’

Forty senior organisers in Cologne examine and extend healthcare programmes

Senior Order of Malta health and social care leaders meet in Cologne
Senior Order of Malta health and social care leaders meet in Cologne

The annual meeting of the Order of Malta’s leaders in the organisation’s health and social welfare programmes around the world took place this weekend, examining their global activities and putting a spotlight on areas of great concern. Speakers for Iraq, Lebanon, Ukraine and Russia outlined their current programmes, describing the suffering that these movements of peoples, of refugees and IDPs bring, both for themselves and their host countries, and the work currently in place to support them. The demand is great and in the case of large movements of refugees, such as those from Syria to Lebanon, it will not go away.

The Order of Malta is on the ground in all of these theatres of action, caring for the displaced, the traumatised, the bewildered victims of conflicts not of their making.

We cannot say tomorrow. Your name is today!

                                  We cannot say tomorrow. Your name is today!  

All these programmes aid those in urgent need. The need is now. The need is today.

In addition, actions to support the homeless and the very poor are being extended in the Western world and the Americas; support for famine-stricken populations in Africa include microfinance programmes and health and hygiene training. In central and South America, in Asia, in central Europe, programmes for disaster risk reduction are being stepped up with a special focus on psycho-social support and sustainable construction.

The Order of Malta is present in 120 countries. Its aim is to care for the poor and the sick, with complete neutrality.

Photo: (Copyright: African Visuals Media/Malteser International).


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International Women’s Day: Order of Malta’s Albrecht Boeselager on the crucial role of women in humanitarian development

Interviewed recently, Albrecht Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Order, spoke of the plight of women in areas of conflict and the Order’s aid actions

"There is a real concern for women caught up in areas of conflict and the related poverty which affects the local population. Eighty per cent of people living in poverty are women and children. In crisis areas one can say that a man with a gun is never starving. But for the women and children, the possibilities are very different. For this reason, the Order of Malta’s humanitarian agencies on the ground focus their assistance very much on the women and children. For example, many of the hospitals we run in Palestine and Africa concentrate on maternity and infant care.

One of the key projects the Order runs for women is in DR Congo - it is specialist care for the women. We have treated tens of thousands in recent years, in a region where rape has become a weapon of war. In the tradition of these cultures raped women are excluded from their society and their villages by their own people. Thus, the raping of the women means the destruction of their society and their social structures. Our assistance starts with medical care, and then we follow up with psychological care, as many of the patients are seriously traumatised. As their societies have cast them out, these women need support to help them earn a living, and so we set up microcredit projects, skills-based teaching projects and most importantly, social projects in the villages. This is to convince the village chiefs that it is better for the community not to exclude these women from their villages. The aim is to allow them to have a hut at the edge of the village - not in the centre, but at the edge - so that the children can still live with their mothers and be educated by their mothers. I have visited this project several times and I find it one of the most moving and challenging we organise.

Women and children at the core of our mission
Women and children are at the core of our mission in many countries. This is evident when one assesses our disaster preparedness projects. An example is the mangroves planting project we have created in Burma/Myanmar. Although the project aims to improve fishing for the local population, the original purpose was actually disaster preparedness, because if mangroves grow along the coastline, ocean waves from hurricanes or typhoons will not hit the country so forcefully. The mangroves provide protection. You cannot do this without the support and action of the women, because it is the women who are the real actors. If they do not accept the project you can forget it!”

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Fra’Andrew Bertie, 78th Grand Master, is proposed for sainthood

1300 participate in the ceremonies in Rome

The start of diocesan proceedings for the beatification of Fra' Andrew Bertie
The start of diocesan proceedings for the beatification of Fra' Andrew Bertie

As the bells of the Basilica of St John Lateran peeled out, 1300 members, friends and volunteers of the Sovereign Order of Malta, and the family of Fra’Andrew, joined the 79th Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing to celebrate the life and works of one its most distinguished sons. It is the first time in a thousand years of history that a Grand Master has been proposed for sainthood. 

Basilica of St John Lateran, Rome
Basilica of St John Lateran, Rome

The Mass was celebrated by the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Raymond Burke. In his address Fra’ Matthew Festing recalled this ‘ exceptional man of profound spirituality’ – as a moderniser, a reformer, as a humane and spiritual guide – and that the vast congregation coming to honour and remember him was a ‘valid testament to vox populi’. 

The family of Fra' Andrew Bertie
The family of Fra' Andrew Bertie
Two Grand Masters
Two Grand Masters
The congregation, St John Lateran
The congregation, St John Lateran

View the full address  

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Last Grand Master of the Order, Fra’Andrew Bertie is proposed for canonisation

Ceremonies this week

Fra'Andrew Bertie, 78th Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta
Fra'Andrew Bertie, 78th Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta

The opening session of the diocesan enquiry into the Cause of the Beatification and Canonisation of Fra’ Andrew Bertie takes place this Friday, in the Archbasilica of St John Lateran in Rome. A thousand members and volunteers of the Order of Malta will attend the ceremony and the Mass to be celebrated by the Order’s Cardinalis Patronus, Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Fra’ Andrew Bertie was Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta for twenty years, from 1988 to 2008.

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Leprosy – a disease with a delayed action timebomb which handicaps and excludes

French volunteers fundraise for 62nd World Leprosy Day

World Leprosy Day - collecting on the streets of Paris
World Leprosy Day - collecting on the streets of Paris

On the streets of French towns on this freezing January Sunday morning, young Order of Malta volunteers are collecting for leprosy sufferers – the 62nd World Leprosy Day. The disease hits children as well as adults; WHO registered over 200,000 new cases in 2013. The slow-growing bacteria can incubate from two to 20 years. It affects the skin, the nerves, the mucous membranes. If detected early, it can be treated with multidrug (MDT) therapy. But the debilitating disease is not yet eradicated. In many countries, local communities exclude leprosy victims. 

The Order’s Association in France, which established the MALTALEP scientific and medical studies for research into the disease, runs programmes for the treatment and prevention of leprosy in 20 medical centres in 14 countries in Africa, Asia and South America.

 The Order of Malta has cared for the victims of leprosy since its founding years in Jerusalem in the eleventh century.  

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Address of the Grand Master to the Order’s diplomatic corps

An annual tradition, it summarises the Order’s works around the world

The Order's diplomatic corps at The annual address of The Grand Master, January 2015
The Order's diplomatic corps at the annual address of The Grand Master, January 2015

Each year the Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, addresses the Order’s diplomatic corps. He thanks them for their important work around the world as a humanitarian ambassadorial network for the activities and support the Order gives to the poor, the sick, the lonely, to refugees, to the elderly, the disabled, disadvantaged children.

This year his address was prefaced by his condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 17 dead and a country shocked and mourning. 

Grand Master Fra' MatThew Festing addresses The diplomatic corps
Grand Master Fra' MatThew Festing addresses the diplomatic corps
 

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Grand Master on behalf of the whole Order of Malta sends deepest condolences to French President

Fra’ Matthew Festing expresses solidarity to the families and the people of France

Ordre de Malte France flies at half mast, 9 January 2015
Ordre de Malte France flag flies at half mast, 9 January 2015

The Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta Fra’ Matthew Festing has expressed his deepest condolences in a letter to President Hollande of France for the terrorist attack on the staff and offices of the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo on 7th January. Twelve people lost their lives and others were left wounded. 

“In this tragic moment, I wish to express our sincere condolences, closeness and spiritual solidarity to the families of all the victims and to the people of France. The government of the Sovereign Order of Malta strongly condemns this horrific attack, firmly opposing all forms of violence, physical and moral,” states Fra’ Matthew Festing.

 In solidarity the offices of Ordre de Malte France in Paris are flying their flag at half-mast. 

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