The Grand Master’s official visit to the President of the Italian Republic
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta’s work is fundamental for protecting the poor and disadvantaged especially in a globalized world where wellbeing is not equally distributed. These are the words of the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, receiving the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing, this morning in the Quirinal Palace.
“We are grateful to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta for the numerous initiatives it has implemented in Italy with generosity and self-sacrifice and especially for its high standards in hospital and health facilities”, the President of the Italian Republic asserted. I am thinking of the St. John the Baptist Hospital in Rome, with its intensive-care rehabilitation ward, and the outpatients’ clinics and diabetes centres which treat over 45 thousand people nationwide.
The Grand Master thanked the President for his kind words and reciprocated by stressing the fertile cooperation between Italy and the Order of Malta. Italy that, since 1834, has so generously offered us hospitality. The Order now operates in over 120 countries, faithfully performing ”a mission of peace and solidarity in the service of the disadvantaged of every race or religion, offering those who suffer the same assistance as our predecessors did in the hospital in Jerusalem nine centuries ago”. Fra’ Matthew Festing stressed the significance of the bilateral health agreement of 2003 that opened up a more effective cooperation between the Order and the Italian National Health Service. He also recalled other bilateral agreements, such as the recent understanding with the Italian coastguard service in Lampedusa, where the Order’s doctors assist immigrants aboard patrol boats. ”Over the last six months, he concluded, volunteer doctors, nurses and helpers from the Italian Ambulance Corps have provided medical treatment at sea to over 2500 immigrants, including numerous children and pregnant women.
President Napolitano concluded: in expressing my sincere admiration for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, I would like to render homage to its members, volunteers and operators who work in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Several have sacrificed their lives in loving their neighbour and assisting the weakest. They are examples to be followed constantly.
The following is the complete text of the speech given by the President of the Italian Republic.
I received today with great pleasure in the Quirinal Palace His Most Eminent Highness the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, confirming the solidity of bilateral relations bound by ancient ties and by exemplary cooperation. Italy, a country that has offered hospitality to the SMOM for almost two centuries, has great respect for its extensive and diversified international scope, involving all continents and numerous multilateral bodies.
The Order is generously engaged in the sector of health, social and humanitarian assistance and performs fundamental work during wars and natural disasters to protect the poorest and most disadvantaged groups. There is a great need for this kind of commitment in the world today. The globalization process is creating unprecedented wellbeing but does not guarantee its fair distribution to all countries and to all citizens. Domestic political instability and the consequences of global economic crises have a harsh affect on developing countries and aggravate the conditions of the poor.
I observe with admiration the SMOM’s initiatives in the most troubled areas of the world, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Hospital of the Holy Family in Bethlehem, in the battle against leprosy in Cambodia and other countries, in cooperation for development in Afghanistan and in its assistance in the poorest districts in South Africa. These commendable actions are based on principles that Italy feels deeply, also as a founding member of the European Union.
I observe with particular interest the agreement the Order of Malta’s International Relief Corps signed in 2003 with the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office, the world’s major donor. It seems very significant that Malteser International’s activities are partially financed by European funds. And it is equally no coincidence that a sincere Europeanist, Philippe de Schoutheete de Tervarent, for many years representative of Belgium at the EU Council, is now the Order’s valued Permanent Observer at the European Commission.
We are grateful to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta for the numerous initiatives it has implemented in Italy with generosity and self-sacrifice and especially for its high standards in hospital and health facilities. I am thinking of the St. John the Baptist Hospital in Rome, with its intensive care rehabilitation ward, and the outpatients’ clinics and diabetes centres which treat over 45 thousand people nationwide.
The Italian government has been following the Order’s work with great interest for many years and cooperates with it at home and abroad. This is testified to by the joint operations in the Lebanon; the agreement with the National Health Service and the Order’s medical-hospital facilities in 2000; the agreement on humanitarian and health assistance to developing countries in 2004; the recent understanding with the Civil Defence Department for first aid to illegal immigrants arriving by sea. Since 1999, a law of the Republic has incorporated the Order’s Military Corps as an auxiliary of the Italian Army.
In expressing my sincere admiration for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, I would like to conclude by rendering homage to its members, volunteers and operators who work in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Several of them have sacrificed their lives to loving their neighbour and assisting the weakest.
They are examples to be followed constantly.