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Grand Master speaks on interfaith dialogue and humanitarian support

London 19 April 2012

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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The mission of the Order of Malta is inspired by its tradition of ‘Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum', to assist the poor and the sick, and bear witness to the Christian faith.


The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order - which is based in Rome, in via Condotti - has its own Government, an independent magistracy, and bilateral diplomatic relations with 110 countries.


The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1048, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature.