Rome, 30/05/2009

Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing received the President of the Czech Republic and current European Union President, Václav Klaus, in the Order of Malta’s Magistral Villa in Rome.

Their talks focused on the world economic crisis, the Czech presidency of the European Union, the health and welfare work of Maltezska Pomoc, the Order’s hospitaller service in the Czech Republic, and the possibility of joint initiatives in developing countries.

In his speech, President Klaus stressed the importance to the Czech Republic of the Order’s Grand Priory of Bohemia and journey it has shared over its 850 years of history. “The Sovereign Military Order of Malta has performed its works in the past, and again in recent years, in my country, the Czech Republic. Many things have changed since the Order was founded almost a thousand years ago, but much of its original vision, ideas and objectives remain in place today, no less than in the past. The Order of Malta’s Grand Priory of Bohemia,” he continued, “has practically been in existence since the 12th century. It has never been abolished nor has it been secularised, a unique case of its kind. However, the Order’s members have often been persecuted and during the last century the Nazi and Communist regimes prohibited them from operating. Thanks to the personal courage and devotion of its members,” President Klaus concluded, “the Order has been able to preserve the meaning of its existence and, after the fall of Communism, has been able to start operating again”.

“Mr. President, I am convinced that Europe’s Christian roots are a source of stability,” asserted the Grand Master. “I am convinced that fighting for freedom and the dignity of human beings (it has been your fight and success against fascism and communism), for liberty of thinking and of religion, is our major stake within Europe. we need a free market economy which includes solidarity for the poor, the sick, and the weakest and most vulnerable people”.