Celebrations for the 900-year anniversary of Fra’ Gerard, founder of the Order of Malta
2 September 2020
Tomorrow a delegation of the Order, led by the Lieutenant ad interim, Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas Boas and the Order’s Sovereign Council, together with many members of the Order, will attend a ceremony in the church of San Lorenzo in the picturesque town of Scala on the Amalfi coast. The event will mark 900 years since the birth of Blessed Gerard, the Founder of the Order, on 3 September 1120. In attendance: Cardinal Giovanni Becciu’ and the Italian Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, the President of the Campania Region, Vincenzo De Luca, and the mayor of Scala, Luigi Mansi.
Fra’ Ruy Villas Boas defined his importance: “Blessed Gerard drew the guidelines for the Order he founded, which have followed them along the centuries.” They are the Order’s permanent mission: tuitio fidei, obsequium pauperum – care for those in need, with a Christian inspiration.
Blessed Gerard, Founder of the Order
When he saw the suffering of exhausted pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem at the end of the eleventh century, Blessed Gerard and his confreres were moved to consecrate their lives to serve those in need.
Gerard was the head of the hospital built by Amalfi citizens in Jerusalem in honour of St. John the Baptist. He was in charge of its organisation, reception, food supplies and religious assistance and cared for the sick and the poor. He was often referred to as the ‘lord of the sick’. The monarchs of Jerusalem, Portugal, Castille and Leon, as well as other princes and bishops, helped Gerard with significant donations. The hospitals and hospices in Italy and southern France gave a European dimension as well as important resources to the Order he founded.
On 15 February 1113 Pope Pascal II recognised Gerard and his institution by placing the Order of Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem under the protection of the church and transforming it into a religious order, acknowledging the right for the Order to continue its work without civil or religious interference and being able to elect, in due course, Fra’ Gerard’s successor.
Acknowledged as Blessed by the Catholic Church, for nine centuries Fra’ Gerard’s example has inspired the Order of Malta’s members and volunteers. They will celebrate his life with devotion on 3 September.