The Grand Master receives Prince Albert of Monaco
The Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing, received Prince Albert of Monaco on an official visit in the Magistral Villa in Rome. Their talks focused on the humanitarian cooperation projects the Order of Malta has launched in partnership with the Principality of Monaco and their mutual commitment to protect environmental resources.
Prince Albert, arriving at 11 o’clock sharp and welcomed by a guard of honour with a rendering of the Principality’s and the Order’s national anthems, spent over half an hour conversing with the Grand Master. Fra’ Matthew Festing recalled that Prince Ranieri had visited the Order with Princess Grace in 1957 when official relations between the two States were established; they became diplomatic relations (permanent missions) in 2007. The Grand Master said that this step constitutes a mutual recognition of the disinterested and impartial humanitarian assistance provided by both the Order and by the Principality. One result of this cooperation, he added, is the arrangement with some African and Middle Eastern countries, thanks to which young heart patients are selected by the Order’s embassy every year and taken to the Principality to be treated in the renowned Centre Cardio-Thoracique in Monaco.
The Grand Master praised the considerable efforts Prince Albert II is making with his Foundation to awaken public opinion to the need to protect the environment from climate change, for a more equitable distribution of water resources and to combat desertification. Fra’ Matthew Festing pointed out that access to drinking water is essential for preventing disease and that, especially in the developing countries, the new community awareness methods ensure that people understand the importance of collecting, treating and protecting this resource. Thousands of our volunteers working in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, he said, are teaching the population how to save water and about the effects of climate change. The Order’s 900-years of experience in humanitarian assistance, he concluded, is now being put to use for environmental education, where new challenges are awaiting us.
Smiling and relaxed, Prince Albert II said that he had ever-increasing admiration for the indefatigable dedication the Knights of Malta demonstrate throughout the world, bringing relief and compassion to men and women tried by life or by conflicts and bearing witness with courage and humility to those principles of charity that have been handed down to them by so many generations. Your works, he said, testify to the priceless value of gratuitousness and disinterested aid in a world in which profit and business seem too often the only points of reference.
The Grand Master conferred the Collar of the Order of Merit on the Prince and presented him with a book on the siege of Rhodes in 1523. In return, Albert II conferred the Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Charles on Fra’ Matthew Festing and gave him a book on the Lords and Princes of Monaco.
The visit ended with a luncheon in honour of Prince Albert in the villa’s 18th century garden with a hundred guests.