Historical Legacy, Migration and Fort St. Angelo discussed during the Grand Master’s State Visit to the Republic of Malta
“It is indeed an honour to welcome you, Your Most Eminent Highness, here in the city of Valletta, which was built by your predecessor Grand Master Jean de la Valette and which to this day bears his name.” With these words the President of the Republic di Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca addressed Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing on his state visit to Malta. “I trust Your Most Eminent Highness’ stay amongst us will take you through an extraordinary journey of the cultural and historical legacy shaped by the Sovereign Order of Malta and the people of Malta and which began 485 years ago”.
“For almost three centuries, the Order’s life and destiny have been inextricably intertwined with Malta,” said the Grand Master in his address. “This bond has helped to create a fertile terrain for nurturing the civil progress, economic growth and international recognition your republic enjoys. It is our fervent hope and desire,” the Grand Master went on, “that the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Republic of Malta can continue to walk along this common path, strengthening our ancient links of friendship thanks to our renewed cooperation in the sector of humanitarian aid, Christian charity and fraternal assistance”.
The talks between the Grand Master and the President focused on Malta’s efforts in tackling the crisis of migrants arriving from the African coasts. The Sovereign Order of Malta has offered humanitarian cooperation to the Malta government, sharing its experience and know-how in first-aid services for migrants. The Grand Master has announced that the Order will donate a mobile unit for medical examinations of migrants when they arrive in Malta.
Over the three days of the state visit, from 15 to 17 April, Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing had meetings with the President of the Republic of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Foreign Minister George Vella, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil and Speaker Anglu Farrugia.
During the meeting with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Malta’s Foreign Minister George Vella and the Order’s Grand Chancellor Albrecht Boeselager signed an agreement providing greater access for visitors to Fort St. Angelo. With the restoration works nearly finished, it will soon be possible to add this historic building, in concession to the Order of Malta since 1998, to the list of Malta’s protected architectural heritage sites.
The Grand Master has announced that he will return to Malta next September to participate in the celebrations for the 450th anniversary of the Great Siege, and said he hoped that Turkey would agree to participate in this anniversary, since countries get along best when they engage in dialogue.
Fra’ Matthew Festing had numerous engagements in the Republic of Malta. Together with the President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and Prime Joseph Muscat he attended the pontifical high mass celebrated in St. John’s Co-Cathedral by Archbishop Charles Scicluna. Afterwards, in the cloistered monastery of the nuns of St. Ursula in Valletta, Fra’ Matthew Festing was received with great joy by the religious of the Order’s contemplative female branch.
This was followed by the visit to the city of Birgu, ancient capital of Malta and seat of the Order’s government between 1530 and 1571 where, after laying a wreath at the Great Siege Monument in the main square , the mayor John Boxall and the town’s local council named the Grand Master an honorary citizen.
The last appointment on the island was the meeting with the visually impaired and their indispensable guide dogs in the premises of the Malta Guide Dogs Foundation, supported by the Order.
Photographs: Department of Information Malta: Reuben Piscopo, Clifton Fenech, Pierre Sammut, Omar Camilleri, Clodagh Farrugia O’Neil