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News Archive - 2012

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Syria crisis: Order of Malta provides winter relief for displaced as humanitarian situation intensifies

Syrians displaced by the violence gripping their country are now facing the arrival of winter, with temperatures dropping and the severity of conditions increasing.  The Order of Malta’s relief service for humanitarian aid, Malteser International, will provide warm clothes for 1,000 children and heating stoves for 500 families in the Syrian cities of Homs and Hama, among the coldest cities in Syria. “Thousands of people there are living in unheated school buildings, sleeping on the floor, without blankets,” explains Roland Hansen, Head of the Asia & Haiti Department of Malteser International.

In addition, more than 15,000 displaced people in Aleppo, Damascus, Hama and Homs will receive critical aid in the form of start-up and hygiene kits, including blankets, mattresses and kitchen and sanitary essentials. These cities have been the scenes of heavy fighting between government and opposition forces. Many houses have been destroyed. “With winter approaching, families are quickly running out of resources, since the traditional family support system is already overstretched,” Hansen adds.

Malteser International’s partner organisation International Blue Crescent can operate inside Syria and has conducted home visits and identified the neediest families to receive emergency relief. So it has also been able to coordinate the distributions in Aleppo, Hama and Homs, and in Damascus, where teams have already given emergency kits to 1,200 families over the past three months.

The Lebanese Association of the Order of Malta continues to run a socio-medical centre in Lebanon, also supported by Malteser International. Syrian refugees can receive free medical treatment there. So far, 600 have been treated.

From this month, 500 refugees will be given emergency relief kits and winter clothes. “Many of the refugees have found jobs doing seasonal work in agriculture and construction,” Hansen says. “Come winter, they will be unemployed and even more in need of help.”

Malteser International is the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency for humanitarian aid. The organisation provides aid in 200 projects in over 20 countries without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of impartiality and independence are the foundation of its work. For more information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int

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Olympic games makers, summer camp volunteers in Lebanon, a new OSJCT home for old people in Bicester - and more

The summer edition of The Hospitaller is now available online and in hardcopy.

Click to view the 2012 Summer newsletter

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The Grand Master, Fra' Matthew Festing, in conversation with Sir Christopher Meyer

Click here to view video

Fra' Matthew Festing spoke with Sir Christopher Meyer earlier this year on the history and the mission of the Order, in the television series Networks of Power, aired on Sky Atlantic television and created by Wingspan Productions. This clip, filmed at Villa Malta, Rome, runs for 7 minutes.

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Malteser International, the Order of Malta's worldwide relief agency, at a glance

Malteser International works around the world, around the clock, to care for those in need. Their latest brochure summarises current activities.

Click to view the latest Malteser International brochure.

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A special Jubilee

HRH Princess Michael of Kent opens latest Trust home

The rain held off as HRH Princess Michael arrived to open the OSJCT’s 79th care centre, Jubilee Lodge, in Bourton-on-the-Water.  Excited residents lined up to greet the Princess, as Chairman of the Trust, Peter Loyd and General Manager, Ruth Baggs, took her on a tour of the home. 

Jubilee Lodge will provide dementia, nursing and intermediate care for 74 residents.  All its bedrooms are for single occupancy and have been designed with en suite facilities. The Trust’s innovative dementia care programme at the Home, led by an Admiral Nurse*, focuses on the latest approach to palliative care and creation of personalised surroundings, with the treatment providing clear benefits for the residents.

*Admiral Nurses are trained mental health nurses specialising in dementia. They work with family carers and people with dementia to improve their quality of life.

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Treasures of the Order of Malta: an exhibition at the Kremlin Museum, Moscow

Grand Master Fra’Matthew Festing opens historic collection

Caravaggio's Portrait of
Antonio Martelli

The Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing, has today inaugurated in the rooms of the Kremlin Museum, Moscow, an exhibition entitled: Treasures of the Order of Malta. Nine centures at the service of faith and charity.’

Over 200 items of special interest – pictures, statues, arms, uniforms, manuscripts and other exhibits - are displayed in Russia for the first time. Many of the works have been gathered from the Museums of the Kremlin, St.Petersburg, Gatchina and Pavlovsk, as well as loans from the Louvre Musuem in Paris, the Galleria Palatina di Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Maritime Museum of Malta, and the National Library of Valletta, Malta.

Among the most important exhibits are Caravaggio’s Portrait of Antonio Martelli, from the Pitti and the icon of Mt.Fileremo, which for centuries has been at the heart of the spirituality of the members of the Order, and which, thanks to the Franciscan Fathers, has temporarily left the Basilica of the Porziuncola in Assisi.

The Louvre has lent the dagger which Grand Master La Vallette presented to Philip II, King of Spain, after the victory against the Ottomans in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. Among the many documents are  genealogical trees of Knights of Malta. Many of exhibits were created by the best artisans in Europe, and as well as being historic heirlooms, are genuine works of art.

The historic link between the Order of Malta and Russia goes back to 1798, after the fall of Malta, when Czar Paul I offered shelter to the Order. Although not Catholic, and lacking the requisites to be elected Grand Master, Czar Paul defended the Order, thus preserving its historic continuity during the most dramatic phase of its history since its foundation in Jerusalem in the eleventh century. Among the items in the Kremlin are  the crown, dagger and seal which Czar Paul I commissioned for his coronation as Grand Master of the Order. Thus, with this historic link, the eight-pointed cross – the symbol of the Order of Malta – became a part of the symbols of Imperial Russia from then until the revolution.

In one section of the exhibition, a document describes the characteristics and the medical and humanitarian works of the Order of Malta, today active in 120 countries of the world.

The exhibition, organised by the Embassy of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Russia to mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishing of diplomatic relations, and under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, is open until 9 September 2012.

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Making moments matter'

Chairman of the OSJCT, Peter Loyd, with Hon.Mario Galea

A fact-finding delegation from the Maltese Government to examine best practice in dementia care was greeted by the Chairman of the Trust Homes, Peter Loyd, and senior Trust professionals, in Oxford this week.

The delegation was led by the Hon.Mario Galea, Parliamentary Secretary for Care of the Elderly, together with Ms Isabelle Farrugia, Head of Parliamentary Secretariat for the Elderly & Community Care, Dr Raymond Galea, MD, FRCOG, Spec O&G (Leuv), PhD, and Mr Adrian Strickland.

The three day tour of Trust Homes kicked off with presentations on the latest developments in dementia care, looking at how to create environments and specialist care where residents feel welcome, secure and happy – making their moments with staff and their families matter. 

Chairman and Maltese guests

Staff emphasised the importance of understanding the stages of dementia and how this impacts on treatment. The physical environment is arranged to be warm and inviting, and many ‘reminiscence’ areas are set up for residents to enjoy and share with their visiting families and friends. Site visits in Banbury and Malmesbury covered a further two days.

The Orders of St John Care Trust Homes is a joint venture of the Order of Malta and the Venerable Order of St John, with 74 homes in four counties. Over 3000 residents are cared by 3000 dedicated, trained staff. For more information: www.osjct.co.uk

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Grand Master speaks on interfaith dialogue and humanitarian support

Fra’ Matthew Festing, Grand Master of the Order of Malta, in speaking at the Hay of Seaton Memorial Lecture this week at the University of Aberdeen and at the British Academy in London on ‘Opportunities for Cooperation between the Faiths of the Middle East: a humanitarian view from the Order of Malta’, explained that the Order’s fundamental operating principle was - and still is - to care for the poor and the sick, whoever they are and from wherever they come. 

The Order of Malta Holy Family Hospital, Bethlehem

His Highness traced the origins of the Order of Malta in the Middle East down to present day, noting from its foundation onwards that the Order has always been politically non-aligned.  He said: ‘The Order is there to deal with realities,’ as he outlined its ongoing activities in the area, especially Lebanon and Palestine, and its involvement with UNESCO in concerns for care of the Holy Places – ‘All , not only the Christian ones.’ In Lebanon the Order runs 11 health care centres and collaborates in the south with the Imam Sadr Foundation; in Palestine the Order runs a maternity hospital in Bethlehem, the only one in the area. Three thousand infants, mainly Muslim, are born there each year. In Jerusalem an Order Foundation (Tantur) is currently developing an old people’s home for all denominations.

The week also saw His Highness open a new wing for the Order of Malta Dial-a-Journey in Stirling, Scotland, a 24-vehicle service which provides specialised transport for the elderly, the disabled, and people with special needs in Central Scotland .

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Order of Malta’s 19th European Hospitallers Conference meet in Prague

Special focus on activities in Eastern Europe

The European Hospitallers of the Order of Malta, who are responsible for all medical and humanitarian activities of the Grand Priories and National Associations, met in Prague to review the Order of Malta’s works across Europe.  Over 50 delegates from more than 24 countries took part in the three day conference.  The meeting reviewed the medical, social and humanitarian projects developed by the Order of Malta on the continent, and exchanged information and best practices. Also attending were representatives of the three Associations of the Order in the United States, and of the diplomatic missions of the Order of Malta to the United Nations in New York and Geneva.

Special sessions included the work of the worldwide relief agency of the Order of Malta for humanitarian aid, Malteser International, and of the Order of Malta volunteer corps in Eastern Europe: Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The Eastern European countries, whose work has flourished since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, report that care for the Roma, the Sinti and the homeless remains high priority, together with support for disabled children and the sick and lonely elderly in regions where a poor infrastructure leaves many in dire need.

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Vatican City, 15 February 2012 (VIS) - Given below is the text of an English-language joint communique of the Holy See and the government of the United Kingdom concerning an official ministerial visit marking the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two States. The delegation, led by Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and was received by Pope Benedict XVI.

The communique states that the "Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government agreed on the urgent need for action to strengthen the universal commitment to religious freedom as a fundamental human right, and to its practical application with a view to promoting respect for all religions in all countries. The Holy See and the British government look forward to working together to combat intolerance and discrimination based on religion, wherever it is manifest.

"The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government reaffirmed the need to promote integral and sustainable global development, based on the centrality of the human person and grounded in the principle of the inherent human dignity and worth of each person. Much progress has been made over the last decade in improving health and well-being for many people. However, there are still significant gaps and challenges in the long and complex path towards ensuring integral human development for everybody. Too many people are still hungry, too many people do not have access to education and to decent work, too many women die in childbirth. In view of these challenges we recognise a shared obligation to achieve a fair international financial and trade framework. And we will strive for a better future for all humanity, taking into particular account care for the poorest people in the world.

"Looking ahead to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro in June this year and to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change implementation process, we share the conviction that in order to take forward a human-centred and sustainable global development, there is a need to continue to strengthen the integration of its interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars: the economic, the social and the environmental, as well as the connection between combating poverty and tackling climate change.

"The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government share a commitment to work at the United Nations and other fora to strengthen the international focus on conflict prevention, disarmament, arms control and non proliferation, aimed at protecting human life and building a world more respectful of human dignity. As part of this effort, we look forward to positive outcomes in July to the final negotiations to agree upon a robust Arms Trade Treaty with a wide scope, and to the 2nd Review Conference of the UN Programme on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.

"With regard to the changes which have occurred in North Africa and the Middle East, the Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government stressed the importance of undertaking real reforms in the political, economic and social realms, in order better to ensure the unity and development of each nation, in responding positively to the legitimate aspirations of many people for peace and stability. In this context, reference was made to the role which Christians can play and to the importance of inter-religious dialogue. The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government expressed the hope for a resumption of negotiations in good faith between Israelis and Palestinians so as to bring about a lasting peace. They renewed their appeal for an immediate end to violence in Syria and stressed the need for co-operation to overcome the present crisis and work towards a harmonious and united coexistence.

"As the London Conference on Somalia approaches, the Holy See and the British Government encourage the international community to support a coherent strategy on Somalia in order to end the crisis there, placing as a priority the protection and welfare of the people of the Horn of Africa.

"Her Majesty’s Government welcomed His Holiness Pope Benedict’s support for the ongoing process of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, the establishment of stable, inclusive political institutions, and efforts to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous future for all parts of the community. Her Majesty’s Government and the Holy See agreed that the use of violence for political ends is deplorable, and must be set aside in favour of constructive dialogue for the well-being of the whole community.

"As the United Kingdom prepares to host the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, both sides look forward to a year characterised by the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the Olympic Truce: at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

"There was in addition a good exchange of views on a wide range of social, economic, political and cultural issues, including on developing the UK’s collaboration with the Vatican Museums. Both sides recognised in particular the role of faith and education in the development of a culture of social responsibility and the underpinning of a healthy society. In this context, appreciation was expressed for the significant contribution which the Catholic Church, and Christians in general, have made and continue to make to the good of British society. The Holy See emphasised the need to ensure that institutions connected with the Catholic Church can act in accordance with their own principles and convictions and stressed the necessity of safeguarding the family based on marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Both sides look forward to further strengthening their relationship by working together through their respective networks and global partnerships, including the Commonwealth of Nations, to promote the common good".

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59th World Leprosy Day

Order of Malta on the ground in the most affected countries

Leprosy affects more than 210,000 individuals every year, of which 20,000 are children. The Order of Malta cares for leprosy patients on four continents, and has cared for sufferers of this disease throughout its nine hundred year history. Today, its assistance programmes operate in  Asia (India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam), Africa (Niger, Guinea, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Senegal, Mauritania, Gabon, Benin, South Sudan, Kenya), the Middle East (Egypt) and South America (Brazil).

In Europe, local fundraising action in France marks the day
Over the weekend, more than 10,000 fundraisers from Ordre de Malte France gathered in cities and towns all over the country - 106 administrative divisions – to support the fight against leprosy. The funds they raised ensure continuing support from Ordre de Malte France to treat the disease through  screening, home and clinical care and rehabilitation, as well as training physicians and health personnel, and financing research. The Order of Malta in France, through its MALTALEP programme, finances primary and clinical research into leprosy in the developing world.

What is leprosy?
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that evolves very slowly (incubation can be up to twenty years). It primarily affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, the mucous membranes of the upper airways and the eyes. To date, there is no vaccine, but an inexpensive, effective Multi Drug Therapy (MDT) treatment has meant cure for more than 14 million patients since 1982 (source: WHO).

Progress towards the goal of eradication
Thanks to donations and the involvement of both professionals and volunteers, there has been significant progress over recent years:

- In fifteen years, leprosy has been eradicated in 98 countries, but it is still present in roughly one hundred countries;

- Since 2002, the disease has sharply declined, but 65% of new cases appear in the most contagious form;

- In 2011, 2.5 million lepers were cured, but they suffer from severe crippling as a result of the disease.

Reintegrating patients thanks to plastic surgery and rehabilitation
Because of the visible results of leprosy (hands without fingers, leg amputations, blindness) many thousands of sufferers are excluded from society. The Order of Malta, through a number of its organisations around the world, is implementing early detection, health care, plastic surgery and rehabilitation programmes in many countries to assist patients to reintegrate professionally and socially.

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Grand Master’s New Year message for 2012

Dear Members, Volunteers and Friends of the Order of Malta

As we celebrated the most joyous event in the Church’s calendar, the birth of Christ – and gatherings with family and friends in warmth and hospitality - we did not forget those whose lives are not so fortunate. Many of our Priories and National Associations are particularly focussed at this time in the year on bringing food and care and warmth to the homeless. They are part of the work our members and volunteers are involved in, right around the globe, in an atmosphere of Christian love.

The Order of Malta reaches out to those in great need, and during this past this year we noted an increase in natural disasters around the world. Many thousands suffered from floods, famine, earthquakes.  We managed to provide humanitarian relief in many of these situations, but we see, too, that the calls on us everywhere do not diminish.

At the same time, our daily support for those needing our help goes on.

As the European Year of Volunteering has just drawn to its close, I wish to acknowledge the deep gratitude the Order feels for the untiring work that you, our thousands of volunteers, have carried out, together with our members, not only during this special Volunteer year which has marked your efforts internationally, but every year.

To be a volunteer in the service of the works of the Order of Malta is a demonstration of Christian charity and of our personal experience of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI has explained that ‘We also become visible instruments of His love in a world that still profoundly yearns for that love amid the poverty, loneliness, marginalisation and ignorance that we see all around us.’  As you go among those who need your help, you are witnesses to the importance of human dignity and the importance of love.

Throughout 2011 our volunteers all over Europe assisted in countless activities to help others. There are so many examples – from the homeless who come daily to our shelters, to the refugees who crowd onto the islands of Lampedusa and Malta or into our hospices in many European cities. There are the handicapped pilgrims whom so many of you accompany to Lourdes, and to your own national shrines; to the support you give the elderly housebound, and to those who are lonely or frightened or malnourished. There are the soup kitchens where you prepare nourishing food in the bitter winters; and there are those of you who sit and play with and read to the young in schools and orphanages in Eastern Europe. All these acts, however small, of kindness and of love, and of consistency and commitment, are what lights the world and what brings warmth and hope to those so in need. Every day you reflect the nine hundred year-old mission of the Order to care for the sick and the poor, no matter who they are.

Dear volunteers, the Order salutes you! Continue your work, never give up, never forget that the gesture you make can make another’s life happier.

Dear members, as we work together to provide healthcare, education, support for the handicapped, refugees, the elderly, the homeless, small children – the world’s vulnerable – I reflect that we have carried out this work for almost a thousand years in the name of Christ. And we will go on doing it. Your participation is vital to these untiring efforts, and I thank you all.

A very fulfilling 2012.

Fra’Matthew Festing

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