On Saturday visitors to the Vatican had the rare treat of seeing the Churches’ oldest Sovereign Military Order of Knights in full regalia, march in a solemn procession to the tomb of St Peter.
thousand deep, the 900 year old Hospitaller Order of St. John of
Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, will fill the Vatican basilica to
celebrate the jubilee anniversary of the papal bull that set them apart
from other monastic military orders of the time.
It was February 15,
1113, when Pope Paschal II issued "Piae postulatio voluntatis". This
bull placed the Order under the protection of the Holy See, formalizing
its spiritual and institutional identity.
“This is a very special
anniversary and over 4000 of the Order’s members and volunteers are
expected to arrive from all corners of the world” explained Albrecht
Boeselager, the Order’s Grand Hospitaller or ‘Minister of Health and
On 9 February they will meet Pope Benedict
XVI at the end of the mass celebrated by the Cardinal Secretary of
State, Tarcisio Bertone, in St. Peter’s Basilica.
activities of the Knights of Malta offers medical, social and
humanitarian support in 120 countries worldwide, thanks to 13,500
members, 80,000 volunteers and over 25,000 doctors, nurses and
The order is a sovereign and independent reality. It
does not depend on any state or on the Holy See, it has its own
diplomatic corps accredited to the various governments.
operate, we are builders of peace" in a kind of "singular humanitarian
diplomacy” says Jean-Pierre Mazery, Head of the Executive and Minister
of Foreign Affairs of the Sovereign Order of Malta. "We do not depend on
anyone, we do not defend territories, we do not take part in conflicts,
we act only to help people, regardless of nationality, race or
The religious chivalric order was originally founded in the 12th
century to assist poor pilgrims in need of care in the Holy Land and
still today the Order is involved in many initiatives in the Middle
The Knights of Malta run the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem,
located in the territories subjected to the Palestinian Authority and it
is the only safeguard for the maternity department of the region
equipped with a neonatal intensive care unit.
Since 1990, at the
hospital in Bethlehem, more than 57,000 children were born. While the
mobile clinic of the Hospital provides the essential maternal and
pediatric care to women and infants in the remotest corners of the
surrounding villages in the desert of Judea.
Syria is also a
priorty concern for the Order. Grand Hospitaller Albrecht Boeselager
says the Order has in fact intensified its actions to help those
affected by the conflict, and in particular over a million and a half
The "Malteser International" (the Order's relief agency for
humanitarian aid) operates in the areas of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama and
Homs, distributing thousands of survival and hygiene kits. The
intervention strategy in favor of Syrian refugees also involves
In particular, the social and medical center in
Khaldieh, Lebanon, is exclusively dedicated to providing free medical
care to the Syrian refugees.
In the winter months, the relief efforts
related to the Knights of Malta provide emergency aid to 10,000 more
people in Syria, Turkey and Lebanon, particularly women with children.