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Rome, December 2007
I would like to send all members of the Order my best wishes for a peaceful Holy Christmas and a Happy New Year.
This year, as in every year, the Order has carried out numerous actions in favour of the needy, the poor and the sick. Among the activities to help the populations affected by natural disasters, the most significant were in Peru after the huge earthquake last summer, and in Burkina Faso and Mexico , where violent rainstorms caused disastrous flooding. In all these tragedies our National Associations and Malteser International, assisted by volunteers from the local ambulance corps, intervened promptly, sending medicines, equipment and basic necessities to the affected populations. Besides managing these emergencies, the Order continued its unceasing medical and welfare services in 120 countries.
The most significant events of 2007 included the historic visit of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the San Giovanni Battista hospital here in Rome, and the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land .
The Holy Father's recent visit to our Rome hospital was an occasion of deep spirituality and intense emotion for the Order. During Holy Mass, celebrated by His Holiness for the sick, their families, and the Order's doctors, volunteers and members, the Pope symbolically consigned to us his latest Encyclical Spe Salvi, uttering words full of hope for those who suffer and for those who try to alleviate their suffering. We should all appreciate that it was an exceptional privilege for the Order of Malta to receive the Holy Father.
The Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in October, made by 1350 members of the Order, was another historic event. The visit to the holy places in Jerusalem, cradle of Christianity and of our institution, was an opportunity for contemplation in an atmosphere of profound spirituality. Another significant occasion was the visit to our Holy Family maternity hospital in Bethlehem , which continues to offer assistance in one of the most troubled areas in the world.
I want to thank all those who offer their prayers, their time and their help for the work of our beloved Order and once again wish you all a Christmas full of serenity and peace.
--Fra' Andrew Bertie
Historic Papal visit to the Order's hospital in Rome
The Grand Master: "The sick are at the heart of our mission"
Rome, 2 December 2007
"At the centre of everything here is the loving care the doctors, medical personnel and volunteers give the patients, effecting the safeguarding of their dignity and the commitment to ameliorate their quality of life." Thus Benedict XVI in a momentous visit to the San Giovanni Battista Hospital in Rome, run by the Italian Association of the Order. The Grand Master, Fra' Andrew Bertie, in greeting His Holiness, affirmed that "The sick are at the heart of our mission."
Together with the Grand Master, the Sovereign Council and members of the Order, the patients, their families, staff and volunteers prayed at the Mass celebrated by His Holiness at the Hospital. Among the highlights was the pontiff's visit to the Reawakening Unit, where patients are treated in the recovery phase known as 'vegetal state'. It is one of the very few in Italy offering this most difficult and touching care.
Pope Benedict took this opportunity of his presence in one of the Order's healthcare services, to symbolically consign to the diocese of Rome his new Encyclical, Spe Salvi, dedicated to the necessity of hope for salvation. He spoke of the 'arduous present', of physical suffering and the dedication of all who are involved in the fight for health. "Dear knights of the Order of Malta, dear doctors, nurses and volunteers who work in the Hospital," he said, "you are called to provide an important service that calls for abnegation and a spirit of sacrifice. In each sick person may you know how to recognise and serve Christ Himself. Show Him, with your gestures and your words, the signs of His merciful love."
Hospitaller Knights "Retake" Fort Sant'Angelo
by Julian Allason
Malta, September 2007
The Knights have returned to the scene of one of one of their greatest triumphs. Fort Sant' Angelo, the redoubt from which the Great Siege of Malta was fought off and the Turkish navy crippled, is once again in the hands of the Sovereign Military Order.
Following the grant of a 99 year lease from the government of Malta the Knights have reoccupied the mighty bastion guarding Grand Harbour, and an extensive restoration is in hand.
In September members of the Scottish Delegation of the Order made a pilgrimage to the site at which so many members were martyred --a number being crucified by the Turks-- in 1565. Although the fortress is presently closed to all save the Order's Guardian, Fra' John Critien, due to the works, the visiting knights were granted special access.
At the summit of the fort is the simple Romanesque chapel dating from 1531 in which Grand Master de la Valette and his knights fortified themselves in prayer for the onslaught of the invaders.
A particular point of interest was the oubliette, a bell-shaped subterranean cell in which the artist Caravaggio, then a novice knight, had been confined in 1608 after one brawl too many. His subsequent escape and flight were taken to constitute resignation from the Order. His painfully realistic 'Beheading of the Baptist' still hangs in the co-Cathedral of St John built by the knights.
Adjacent to the fort is the Sacra Infirmeria, the hospital to which the sick were admitted regardless of status or religion for treatment. Here up to 600 patients were treated by the physicians and serving brothers of the Order. Studying the exhibition a modern-day surgeon nodded in appreciation of the skill --and hygiene-- exercised here four centuries ago. It was good, he concluded, that the knights were back.
High Times: the 24th Malta International Children's Summer Camp pitches up in the Swiss Alps
The 24th Malta Childrens' International Summer Camp was held this August 11-18 at Champery, a typical mountain village in the beautiful Swiss Alps. We were there!
Geneva, August 2007
The 480 young participants from 20 countries, the UK among them, included 200 handicapped young people. Everyone joined energetically in the camp's enticing programmes and enthusiastically downed large quantities of Swiss chocolate and cheese, listened to the alp horn and local music as well as classical sacred music and disco --and took part in a wide range of activities, from boating on Lake Geneva to workshops to spiritual reflection sessions.
On 15th August, feastday of the Assumption, HE Cardinal Schwery celebrated a special Mass in which all participated, including a special delegation from the Order's Grand Magistry in Rome.
The happy occasion concluded with everyone promising to meet up again next year for the 25th Malta Children's International Summer Camp, in another location, and do it all, joyfully, again.
The Order of Malta runs this camp every year to give handicapped young people the experience of a happy holiday in a structured, caring environment, with the Order's National Associations taking it in turn to organise and host this highly popular event. Many young trained volunteers come to help, year after year.
The Order's Ambassador to the UN in New York
participates in the General Assembly debate on Civilisations and the
Challenge for Peace:
Religion in Contemporary Society
"It is imperative and urgent to arrive at a universally shared recognition of basic ethical criteria."
New York, May 2007.
The Order's Ambassador to the UN, HE Robert Shafer, took part in a round table discussion on 11 May which focussed on the section Religion in Contemporary Society. "True coexistence between social groups is only possible if everyone recognizes some fundamental ethical values," he said. "Today, amid unprecedented levels of interdependence among civilisations, it is imperative and urgent to arrive at a universally shared recognition of some basic ethical criteria. A significant cause of religious problems is the social polarity between the rich and poor. Governments and religious groups must recognize that development, peace and security, and human rights are interlinked."
He continued: "Far from being the opiate of the people, authentic religion places human objectives in their true proportion and stimulates respect for ethical values that are indispensable to coexistence among peoples. Learning respect for others and for dialogue is essential to human education. Cultural and religious interactions will not survive unless more attention is paid to the intrinsic value and destiny of the human person."
John Monckton Candlemas Concert - A Memorial
London, 8 February 2007.
A memorial concert for John Monckton, a knight of the Order who throughout his life was involved in its charitable work, took place at the Church of the Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Cheyne Row, on Thursday 8 February in the presence of Mrs John Monckton and their two daughters, and a very large congregation.
The concert, in aid of the Order's Holy Family Hospital, Bethlehem, where 34,000 babies have been born since 1990, was hugely attended by John's many friends and colleagues, many of whom had braved the extreme weather conditions to participate. The church's splendid choir sang the Johann Sebastian Bach Magnificat, accompanied by the City of London Chamber Players, with readings from Julian Fellowes.
A heart-warming and successful evening.
Lebanon: appeal tops 131,000 Euro