The Knights of Malta
The Order yesterday and today
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, a very prestigious institution with glorious tradition, has had its headquarters in Rome for about 200 years. The roots of the Order go back to the 11th century. The Order is the only successor to the Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Order of St John of Jerusalem, which the Church confirmed as the Order of Hospitaller and Cavaliers. The Knights of Malta were known for their zealous defence of Christianity first in the Holy Land, then in Cyprus, where they moved because of historical events, and then on the island of Rhodes, and finally in Malta. The Knights were re-established on the island of Malta in 1530 by the order of King Charles V of Spain. They stayed in Malta for over 200 years, building hospitals, hospices, and centres as well as initiating scientific research. Helping the sufferers, the homeless and the poor has been the main mission of the Order until now. These activities developed in the years 1962-88 when the Grand Masters were Fra' Angelo de Mojana and his successor Prince Fra' Andrew Bertie, the first Englishman as Grand Master in the history of the Order.
Currently, the Order runs hospitals, centres for leprosy sufferers and centres for terminally sick in over 110 countries.
The Knights of Malta arrived in Italy in 1798 after Napoleon had conquered Malta. They settled in Sicily, and then in Ferrara. In 1834 they reached Rome where they founded their headquarters in the historical Palazzo Malta. When the structures of the Order were re-established in Italy national associations of the Cavaliers came into being: in Germany in 1859, in Great Britain in 1875, in Italy in 1877 and then in other countries. In Poland the Association of the Cavaliers of Malta began its activities in 1920 after Poland had regained its independence.
Structure of the Order of Malta
The head of the Order is the Prince and Grand Master, who is now represented in Poland by Ambassador Vincenzo Manno, the first ambassador of the Order who has resided in Poland since June 2004. The Grand Master, who is elected for life, is regarded as sovereign head and holds the title of Altezza and Eminentissima (His Most Eminent Highness). He governs the Order with the Sovereign Council (Council of Ministers), composed of Grand Commander (he substitutes for the Grand Master when the latter is absent), Grand Chancellor (prime minister), Grand Hospitaller (minister of health), and Receiver of the Common Treasure (minister of finance). The cardinal appointed by the Pope as his representative to the Order, has the title of Cardinalis Patronus.
The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order establishes bilateral diplomatic relations as other countries do and has about 100 Embassies in the world. The Order is granted the status of Permanent Observer in the United Nations and its special structures: UNESCO, FAO, PAM, WHO, UNHCR, OHCHR, in the European Commission and has its delegates in other international organisations.
The Grand Master is elected for life from the Professed Knights by the Council Complete of State. According to the Constitution, as the religious Superior and Sovereign, he must dedicate himself completely to enhancing the Order's works and be an example of religious conformity for all members. He is vested with supreme authorities. Together with the Sovereign Council, the Grand Master issues the legislative measures not covered by the Constitutional Charter, promulgates government acts, manages Common Treasure assets, informs the Holy See of the Order's needs, ratifies international agreements and the summoning of the Chapter General.
The states with which the Order has diplomatic relations recognize the Grand Master as the Supreme Head of the Order, with the prerogatives, immunities, privileges and honours reserved for Heads of State. He is bestowed the title of Most Eminent Highness, and the Holy Roman Church confers him the rank of Cardinal.
In April 1988 Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was elected the 78th Grand Master. He was born in London in 1929. He is related to the Earl of Lindsey (an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom in northern England) and Abingdon. He graduated in History, Oriental and African Studies. He speaks 15 languages. He taught modern languages and he was a journalist, too. He has been in the Order since 1956. He has contributed to the government of the Order, including a Subprior in Great Britain. He took Perpetual Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in 1981 and became a Religious member.
The Grand Commander acts as Interim Lieutenant in case of the death, resignation from office or permanent incapacity of the Grand Master.
The Grand Commander is the religious superior of the Professed Knights and of the Knights and Dames in Obedience. His duties include: spreading the principles of Faith, supervising Priories and Subpriories and compiling visitational reports to be sent to the Holy See on the state and life of the Order. He sees to the religious aspects of the activities of Professed Knights and Knights in Obedience. In particular he is in charge of instructing the members of the Sovereign Order in the fulfilment of the principles of Tuitio Fidei e Obsequium Pauperum. The Grand Commander also takes care of the Magistral Palace Chapel and the organization of pilgrimages.
The Grand Commander is H.E. the Venerable Bailiff Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto.
The Grand Chancellor, whose office includes the offices of the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is at the head of the Chancellery and its related offices. He is responsible for Foreign Affairs, the Associations and matters concerning members of the Third Class. His duties include the representation of the Order with third parties, the conduct of policy and the internal administration of the Order (without prejudice to the competencies of the other High Officers), the preparation and dispatch of the acts of government, countersigning the Grand Master's decrees, the arrangement, examination and presentation of subjects to be treated in the Sovereign Council. The Grand Chancellor is also in charge of diplomatic representation.
Currently, the Grand Chancellor is Jean Pierre Mazery.
The Grand Hospitaller's office includes the offices of Minister of Health and of Social Affairs, Minister for Humanitarian Action and Minister for International Co-operation. He co-ordinates and supervises the initiatives of Grand Priories and National Associations and other Order institutions world-wide involved in charitable and humanitarian actions, and ensures that Christian principles are respected.
The Grand Hospitaller is Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.
For many centuries the Knights of Malta have been worldwide known for the charitable activities. Currently, the Order runs hospitals, including special hospitals for leprosy sufferers, and other centres in over 110 countries. The Knights of Malta help victims of natural catastrophes all over the world.
Because of the celebration of the feast of the Patron of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order ( St. John of Jerusalem, there will be a solemn Mass in the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army (Dluga Street 13/15) in Warsaw on 22 June 2006, presided over by Archbishop Jozef Michalik, Apostolic Nuncio, and Archbishop Slawoj Leszek Glodz and Bishop Tadeusz Ploski, the Field Bishop of the Polish Armed Forces. The participants will include the Polish Cavaliers of Malta, representatives of the Polish government, Parliament, local authorities and diplomatic corps. The Mass begins at 6.15 p.m.