The Grand Master’s state visit to Portugal
On a state visit to Portugal, Fra’ Matthew Festing was received by the President of the Republic, met the nation’s highest political and religious authorities and visited some of the social works of the Order’s Association. He also signed a cooperation agreement to strengthen the Order’s action in Portuguese-speaking countries.
Meeting with the President of the Republic
“I would like to express to His Most Eminent Highness our sincere appreciation for the Order of Malta’s efforts during a particularly difficult time for Portugal, when we must all do our utmost to help our fellow citizens cope with the social impact of the economic crisis”. The President of the Portuguese Republic addressed these words to the Grand Master during the State luncheon offered in his honour in the Ajuda Palace, the historic royal residence.
The Portuguese President had received the Grand Master with military honours in Belem Palace. The centuries-old bond between the Order of Malta and Portugal, the effects of the economic recession, the Portuguese Association’s social and healthcare works and the signature of the agreement between the Order of Malta and the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries were some of the topics covered during the cordial meeting.
President Cavaco Silva bestowed the Order of St. James of the Sword, Grand Collar, on Fra’ Matthew Festing. The Grand Master bestowed the Order’s Collar al Merito Melitense on the President.
Signature of the cooperation agreement
In Lisbon, in the headquarters of the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries (CPLP), its Executive Secretary Domingos Simoes Pereira and the Order of Malta’s Grand Chancellor Jean-Pierre Mazery signed the international cooperation agreement between the Community and the Sovereign Order.
This agreement, to which Portugal provided its valuable contribution as founding member of the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries, will supply the operative framework for joint actions, including:
– offering emergency healthcare in the poorest regions
– training for medical personnel
– combating poverty, drugs and human trafficking
– promoting humanitarian international law
The Grand Master recalled that the Order of Malta has diplomatic relations with all the member countries of the CPLP: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome’ and Principe and East Timor. He also said that “thanks to this agreement, the humanitarian aid programmes the Order already has in place in the member states of the Community will be further developed”.
Meetings with the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Speaker
The Grand Master and accompanying delegation were received by the Prime Minister José Socrates in his residence.
In the Palácio de S. Bento, the Grand Master was received by the Speaker of the Parliament Jaime Gama. He met a delegation of parliamentarians, visited the parliament and, with Speaker Gama, signed the manifesto for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. President Gama offered a luncheon in honour of the Grand Master and his delegation.
Keys to the city of Lisbon
The Mayor of Lisbon Antonio Costa welcomed the Grand Master in the city hall with military honours. During the meeting – attended by representatives of the city council and the diplomatic corps accredited to Portugal – President Costa bestowed the keys of the city of Lisbon on Fra’ Matthew Festing.
Visit to the Association’s works
During his stay in Lisbon the Grand Master inaugurated the Order of Malta’s Portuguese Association’s new out-patients’ department for the poor in the Ordem Terceira de S. San Francisco da Cicade hospital. Afterwards the Grand Master was greeted by hundreds of children in the Menino de Deus social centre.
Welcomed by the President Conte di Albuquerque in the Association’s Headquarters, Fra’ Matthew Festing met the Order of Malta’s Portuguese leaders and members. A lunch was given in his honour in the Lisbon Museum of Decorative Arts.
In the evening, in the Lisbon Cathedral of St. Mary Major, the Grand Master attended mass with the members of the Portuguese Association.