Collar pro merito melitensi to Jose’ Manuel Barroso: ‘together against poverty in europe’
Meeting between the President of the European Commission and the Grand Master at the Magistral Villa
Combating unemployment in Europe, with the target of “reducing by 25% the number of those at risk of poverty and social exclusion”, is an “integral part of the economic strategy the European Commission is preparing for the next ten years” and a shared commitment with the Order of Malta which, with its 900 years of existence, is “the oldest humanitarian organization in history”. With these words, the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso thanked yesterday the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing, for Collar “pro Merito Melitensi” bestowed on him “in recognition of the personal commitment in the service or your high functions at the Head of the European Commission since 2004 and for the interest he has taken in the Order of Malta, supporting its work with a profound humanitarian spirit”.
Stressed during the talks was the desire to strengthen health and humanitarian cooperation between the European Commission and the Order of Malta, with joint humanitarian projects already in place in the Congo, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, and to help protect the Holy Places and inter-religious dialogue.
The ceremony took place in the Magistral Villa in Rome and was followed by a gala dinner attended by some hundred ambassadors and Italian and Vatican institutional personalities, including the Italian Minister for European Politics Andrea Ronchi and Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.
The Grand Master thanked President Barroso for the “excellent relations” between the two institutions, further stimulated by the signature in Brussels last year of the Cooperation Agreement between the European Commission and Order of Malta, in particular in the healthcare and emergency relief sectors.
Among the projects underway, he recalled, was that of freedom of access and protection of religious sites worldwide: “we believe that a clear comprehension of the nature of the Holy Places, of their universal dimension and of their specific characteristics,” he said, “is a precondition for safeguarding their religious significance and preventing them being exploited for reasons that have little to do with religion or cultural patrimony protection. He confirmed that the Order wants to extend its actions in the Middle East and particularly in the Lebanon, where “the preservation of its cultural diversity and the presence of Christians are at stake”, to support stability in the Mediterranean and help prevent conflicts.
President Barroso affirmed that the European Commission is “interested to develop together the idea of making the most important sacred places, places of peace and culture.” He continued, faced with an “unprecedented economic and financial crisis” and during the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, the European Union’s priority is to create jobs and “qualified employment” for European citizens. “We cannot close our eyes,” he said, “to the fate of 80 million of our poor fellow citizens, of which 19 million are minors”. The Order of Malta and the European Union must “oppose with determination and above all with our values” the negative values created by the economic crises that “offer a breeding ground for populism, individualism and egoism”. “More than ever,” he said, “we have to take action against instability and injustice with the ideals of justice and solidarity that inspire your Order”.
This was the first visit of a European Commission president to the Order and the second meeting between José Manuel Barroso and the current Grand Master.