The Order of Malta meets the accredited diplomatic corps
On the 11th of January the traditional meeting between the Order of Malta and the Ambassadors of the 93 countries with which the Order has diplomatic relations took place in Villa Malta in Rome. The audience, in the presence of the Grand Master, Fra’ Andrew Bertie, constituted the occasion to sum up the activities and the main humanitarian interventions performed by the Order of Malta during the last year.
The text of the Grand Master’s speech
Mr. Ambassador, I truly appreciated the greetings you expressed in this new-year meeting on behalf of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Order. I also wish to express my heartfelt greetings to all of you, to your families and to the countries you represent.
I want to thank you for your noble sentiments and for the great appreciation […]
The horrific disaster in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand at the outset of this year has deeply shocked us. A disaster which has reached I would venture to say a universal dimension, which has given a tremendous blow to some already hardly-tried populations who are now also running the risk of epidemics. The Order of Malta is working alongside the international community and the numerous humanitarian organisations that have rapidly mobilised wide-ranging relief work. The Order immediately acted in India and Thailand through its International Emergency Corps, distributing food and clothes as well as medicines and medical assistance to the victims. At the same time, it also assessed needs in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, in Kenya and the east African coast.
We are very close to these populations with our love and prayers and, in saying this, I am specifically addressing His Excellency the Ambassador of Thailand. Our thoughts go particularly to the injured and homeless and we entrust to divine mercy the vast number of those who have lost their lives.
Other reasons for anxiety come from the events occurring on the international scene over the past year. Although in Afghanistan the situation seems to have improved after the election of President Karzai, in Iraq terrorism is giving no respite, and a great number of Iraqi civilians and soldiers, as well as many coalition-force soldiers, have lost their lives. We hope that the new President will be able to re-establish harmony in this country. In the Middle East, with a particular thought for the Holy Land, we sincerely hope that in 2005 we will be able to witness progress in the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, starting up a real peace process.
As you are aware, European governments approved last autumn a Constitutional Treaty that traces out a common path for the Member States, involving an important series of right and duties. This treaty represents a significant step ahead on the road to peace. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of some countries, it has proved impossible to include a reference to the Christian roots of Europe in the preamble to the treaty. This serious omission has greatly saddened us.
In an international scenario where too many shadows block out the light, our Order, faithful to its tradition of obsequium pauperum and tuitio fidei, has continued its commitment in health and humanitarian services in various regions of the world. A commitment which is implemented under the vigilant governance of our Priories and National Associations and with the aid of our Diplomatic Missions, and of which our knights and dames can be proud.
In 2004, we ran a children’s vaccination campaign against poliomyelitis in the northern region of Darfur in the Sudan. We also collaborated with the emergency units and maternity services, providing medicines and basic necessities to around 45,000 people. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Order gave assistance, with one of its teams of specialised doctors, to local medical units in Bukavu and to another 29 medical centres, concentrating on medical and psychological assistance to victims of sexual abuse. In southern Iran, after the devastating earthquake in Bam, the Order of Malta’s International Emergency Corps implemented a town rebuilding project involving medical units and schools. In Kenya, the Order focused its action on tuberculosis treatment and on AIDS prevention, providing medical equipment to the St. Mary Hospital in Nairobi. In 2004, the 30,000th child was born at the maternity hospital in Bethlehem, where women of all religious faiths are accepted. And naturally the various healthcare programmes, already running for many years in the five continents, continued with the same intensity.
Moved by all the individual sacrifices demonstrated in our humanitarian interventions, I would like to remember the two young volunteers from the Order of Malta’s International Emergency Corps, victims of the armed conflicts in Afghanistan. I also express my warmest thanks to our knights, dames and volunteers who have performed their humanitarian service with a praiseworthy spirit, often working in dangerous conditions.
Naturally, there were many contacts and meetings on the highest political levels over the last year. These were made possible thanks to the invaluable cooperation of the diplomatic representatives accredited to the Order, to whom go my most heartfelt appreciation, and I would also like to express my gratitude to our diplomatic network abroad. The special, and above all spiritual, relationship we enjoy with the Holy See was highlighted once again by the annual audience with His Holiness Pope John Paul II on 22 June, the feast of St. John the Baptist. During this audience, the Holy Father stressed and encouraged the Order’s exemplary action worldwide.
The Order’s Chancellery was also honoured by a close collaboration with the Holy See’s Secretary of State. A recent example of this relationship was the visit to the Magistral Palace of the Secretary of State, His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano, accompanied by his Subsitute, Monsignor Leonardo Sandri and by the Secretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Giovanni Lajolo.
There were various encounters with high-ranking personalities during 2004. These included the visit of the President of the Slovak Republic, H. E. Rudolf Schuster, the visit of the President of Malta, H.E. Guido de Marco and of the new President, H.E. Edward Fenech Adami, the visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Croatia, Doctor Miomir Zuzul, the visit of the President of Romania, H.E. Ion Iliescu, the visit of the President of Paraguay, H.E. Nicanor Duarte Frutos, the visit of His Royal Highness the Princess Chakri of Thailand, as well as the official visit that I myself made to Hungary, where I was warmly welcomed by the President, H.E. Ferenc Madl.
Last year the Order of Malta was admitted as Permanent Observer to the Latin Union. In addition, the Operational Plan under the Framework Agreement of 2000 was signed with the Spanish International Cooperation Agency.
With regards to the Order’s internal activities, I would like in particular to mention the great success in 2004 of the Order’s International Seminar on Spirituality and Strategies, which was held in Malta.
Relations with the Italian Republic experienced a stage of intense and growing cooperation over last year. The agreement on Health Relations, which became law in Italy in August 2003, has entered its executive stage with the full support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health, as well as regional authorities. The scope of this agreement is considerable, since it gives the same treatment to the health network of the Order of Malta’s Association of Italian Knights as it does to the Italian public services. In this context, a special mention should be made of the magistrate commissioners’ commitment to the renovation of the St. John the Baptist Hospital in the Magliana district of Rome, offering beds to 200 patients.
Alongside these health activities, the Italian Knights’ Association, thanks to the Emergency Corps of the Order of Malta, has given a new impulse to civil defence activities, whose great usefulness is gratefully acknowledged by the Italian Republic’s Civil Defence Department. In October we also signed a framework agreement with Italy for cooperation in developing countries.
On 3 November 2004, a postal convention was signed with Italy. We have already signed postal conventions with 50 States and this agreement with the Italian Republic represents a new step in the development of the Order’s philatelic activities.
With regards to our relations with Italy, I would like to conclude by recalling that in 2004 we were pleased to receive in our Magistral Palace the visits of the Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Pier Ferdinando Casini, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini.
Dean, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I once again wish prosperity and wellbeing to you, to your families and to the countries you so worthily represent. I would like to end by expressing the desire, in full spiritual communality with the appeal launched by John Paul II for the Day of Peace 2005, that, in promoting peace and justice, hope will never leave us, certain that evil will never prevail, and that love is the only force capable of leading us to personal and social perfection.