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Order of Malta at the Munich Security Conference : special panel on Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict

Rome, 17 February 2023 – The 59th Munich Security Conference opened this morning, bringing together heads of state and government, ministers and senior institutional representatives of the international community in the German city to take stock of the main challenges in the field of foreign policy and security. The Sovereign Order of Malta is participating again this year and organised a conference on ‘Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict’ this morning at the start of the conference.

“It is widely acknowledged that the role of religions and religiously inspired political activism is an increasingly important factor in global affairs in the 21st century,” explained the Order of Malta’s Grand Chancellor, Riccardo Paternò di Montecupo, in his opening address, recalling how in recent years governments of many states have appointed special envoys charged with promoting interreligious dialogue and the role of religious institutions in foreign affairs.

The Grand Chancellor noted that the lack of a political or economic agenda, the long-term presence  on the ground, and the understanding and sharing of common values, as well as the modus operandi of religious organisations – which remain on the ground even after the emergency – constitute added values in the field of humanitarian interventions and peace promotion.

“In a globalised world where new players are always emerging, the limits of conventional diplomacy are increasingly evident, while a new form of diplomacy is coming forward: a faith-based diplomacy, which emphasises dialogue, mutual respect and understanding,” the Grand Chancellor said, recalling the Order of Malta’s action, which moves in parallel on two levels: that of international and religious diplomacy and that of interventions in the field. The Grand Chancellor gave examples of the Order of Malta’s interventions in the medical-social sphere to help the victims of the war in Ukraine, both inside the country and in the neighbouring states. These interventions are actively supported by the Order of Malta’s diplomatic network, which today maintains diplomatic relations with 112 states, including Ukraine and many of its neighbouring countries.

The conference organised by the Order of Malta was attended by senior representatives of religious institutions, including the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Johannes Oeldemann Director of the Johann Adam Moehler Institute in Paderborn, Azza Karam, Secretary General of the organisation Religions for Peace, Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Michael Wiener, also of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The speakers’ appeal for action was unanimous: encourage the inclusion of religious leaders in the sphere of international politics in order to increase peace.

Photo: Grand Chancellor Paterno’ gives his address

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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.