“FOR OVER EIGHT CENTURIES TOGETHER ALONG THE PATH OF CIVILIZATION, HISTORY, AND PROGRESS, BESIDE THE SICILIAN POPULATION”.
International Conference in Palermo and Messina on the presence of the Knights of Malta in Sicily.
Saturday 17 Sunday 18 June 2000.
The Sicilian Regional Assembly will host for two days in the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo and Palazzo Zanca in Messina a prestigious multidisciplinary meeting of experts from various European universities. The conference is organised by the Order of Malta to inaugurate the cultural, scientific and humanitarian activities of its “Donna Maria Marullo di Condojanni” Foundation, established in memory of this Dame who died a year ago after a life devoted actively and lovingly to the sick, needy and refugees.
The Conference will be preceded by official visits of the Grand Chancellor, Amb. Carlo Marullo di Condojanni, and consort Donna Elisabetta, with the Order’s Ambassador to the Italian Republic, Giulio di Lorenzo Badia, to the President of the Sicilian Region, Rt. Hon. Angelo Capodicasa, in Palazzo Orleans and to the President of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, Rt. Hon Nicola Cristaldi, in Palazzo dei Normanni. In attendance, the Councillors for Health and a delegation of the heads of the Order’s structures in Italy and Sicily, President Don Carlo dei Principi Massimo, the Commander of the Order’s Military Corps, General Mario Prato, and the Grand Priory delegates in Sicily. The constructive and cordial meetings of the Order’s Head of Government with the Presidents stress the ties that bind the Order to Sicily, not only with regards to tradition but also for the health, welfare and civil defence services that the Knights perform daily all over the region.
The Order’s Association of Italian Knights, and in particular the Grand Priory delegations in Sicily, will be co-operating with the “Donna Maria Marullo” Foundation, as well as public and private organisations with similar institutional aims. An executive committee led by Donna Elisabetta Marullo di Condojanni will be responsible for its organisation. With this initiative, Donna Elisabetta will be keeping alive the memory of her relation Donna Maria, born into one of Sicily’s most illustrious families and for over forty years present in this land with her spirituality and her indefatigable humanitarian commitment through various international institutions. She was well known for her devoted help to earthquake victims and her services for the poor and the homeless, as well as for gypsies for whom she organised camps.
The main aims of the Foundation, with offices in Rome and Messina, are to promote and foster the study and prevention of earthquakes in Sicily, and especially in the province of Messina. Also included are civil defence initiatives such as joint emergency drills and specific information for the population and the preservation and development of family values.
By organising this international conference just a month after its establishment, the Foundation has attracted to it and to Sicily the cultural and scientific interest of eminent experts, as well as governmental, religious and humanitarian institutions, thanks also to the co-operation of the Order’s International Academy. The Sicilian Regional Assembly and the Sicilian Region, through their respective Presidents, Rt. Hon. Nicola Cristaldi and Rt. Hon. Angelo Capodicasa, and the Order’s Grand Magistry, through the Grand Chancellor, Amb. Carlo Marullo di Condojanni, have given their High Patronage. The Minister of Defence, Rt. Hon. Sergio Mattarella, the Archbishop of Palermo, Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, the Mayor of Messina, Dott. Salvatore Leonardi, and the Grand Prior of Naples and Sicily, Fra’ Antonio Nesci, will be participating in the sessions and meetings with their presence and their addresses.
The conference, divided into two sessions, will start on the morning of Saturday 17 June in Palermo and continue in Messina in the afternoon of Sunday 18, co-ordinated respectively by Prof. Orazio Cancila, Professor of Modern History at the University Palermo, and by Prof. Aldo Nigro, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Messina.
In the splendid setting of Palazzo dei Normanni, the Grand Priory delegate for Palermo, Paolo de Gregorio, will open the conference. Prof. Paolo Caucci von Saucken, Professor of Spanish Culture at the University of Perugia and President of the Order’s International Academy, will give the first paper on “The Order of Malta and Pilgrimages: militia sacra e cura peregrinorum”, devoted to the Order’s core mission, the care and assistance of pilgrims, of great topicality both for the Grand Jubilee of 2000, and for the development of the Great Marian Pilgrimages worldwide. Prof. Joseph Brincat, Head of Department of the Italian Faculty of Arts of the University of Malta, will be entering right into the heart of the conference with his study on “Linguistic Usage in Sicily and Malta during the Period of the Knights”, stressing the great cultural and spiritual contribution of the presence of the Knights in the two islands, already beacons of civilization and progress in the Mediterranean basin. Prof. Kristjan Taomasporg will treat the origins of the “Settlements of the Great Orders of Chivalry in Sicily” drawing conference participants’ attention to a century, 1130-1220, of great splendour for Sicily, freed from the dominion of the Arabs and becoming independent with the conquest of the Kingdom of Sicily by the Normans begun in 1060. The Director of the Istituto Melitense of the University of Madrid, Prof. Hugo O’ Donnel, will take the occasion of the Emperor Charles V’s fifth centenary – commemorated on Malta last week with an international conference organised by the Order’s International Academy, in which numerous scholars participated in the presence of 18 ambassadors from all over Europe – to stress the great political intuition of Charles V in assigning Malta to the Knights, and in particular the role of “Malta and Sicily in Charles V’s Naval Strategy”.
The conference on the presence of the Knights in Sicily will continue in the afternoon of the next day in Palazzo Zanca in Messina, a symbolic city for all the Knights of the Sovereign Order. It was inside the embrace of this port, with the generosity of its population, and in particular in the spirit of solidarity and co-operation of the confreres of the Grand Priory of Messina, that the Order found, both after the surrender of Rhodes and the loss of Malta, the strength and the ability to take up its journey begun nine centuries ago in Jerusalem. The strength to rise again from its disastrous crises and also to withstand, with the help of the Messina Knights, the extenuating sieges and naval battles against Muslim expansion. Messina like Jerusalem, like Rhodes, like Malta? Perhaps. Certainly behind Jerusalem, behind Rhodes, behind Malta, and now behind Rome, there has also been, there still is, the precious contribution of this city, with its Knights, with its Dames and with its young volunteers.
It is precisely the Grand Priory Delegate of Messina and Grand Chancellor of the Order, Amb. Carlo Marullo di Condojanni, whose name and whose illustrious family have been constructively and actively interwoven for centuries in these glorious historic events, who has the task of introducing the session of the international conference in the city of the “Giant who came from the Sea”.
It was in this city, on 9 February 1803, that the Pontifical Bull arrived nominating Giovan Battista Tommasi, closing the troubled period following the loss of Malta and opening new horizons which were to bring the Order to the coasts of Sicily and to those of all continents. “Grand Master Tommasi and the Order of Malta in Sicily” is the title of the in-depth and rigorous study by Prof. Paolo Caucci von Saucken, President of the Order’s International Academy, who will be the first to take the floor. Prof. Joseph Bricat, following on from the paper given in the Palermo session on linguistic usage, will enrich and complete the panorama under the scientific profile by talking about “The Knights and the Maltese: the scientific promotion and the formation of standard varieties”. Also of great interest for Sicily’s history is the paper of Prof. Kristjan Toomaspoeg, with its invaluable and exhaustive research on “The Geography of the Order of St. John in Jerusalem’s Patrimony in Sicily, 1145 – 1492”, assets of the Sicilian Grand Priory strictly linked to its welfare activity and to its defence of Christendom and the western world. To close the session, attentively and cordially co-ordinated by Prof. Aldo Nigro, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Messina, Prof. Hugo O’Donnel will dwell on the strategic and determinant deeds of “Don Garcia de Toledo, Viceroy of Sicily and Captain General of the Sea”, artificer of the “Little Relief” and “Great Relief” of the Sicilian fleet, definitively repelling the Great Siege of Malta by the overwhelming and powerful Ottoman fleet and Muslim expansionism in the West.
During the conference organised for the establishment of the “Donna Maria Marullo di Condojanni” Foundation, the path of civilization, history, and progress trod for centuries by the Knights and the Sicilian people has become more vivid than ever. This is not only thanks to the historical excursus of eminent scholars but also to the exemplary life of this Dame of Malta who lived according to the Order’s principles and institutional aims. For the needy, the gypsies in their camps and for the sick, Donna Maria Marullo was “our Dame”, just as she was for the generations of young people to whom she had dedicated, with passion and professionalism, the most advanced and farsighted training schemes.
The Sicilians usually referred to the Knight’s ships as “ours”. “Tutela Italiae” were the words engraved on a medal that Grand Master Pinto had struck in honour of the Knights’ naval fleet and the Knights of St. John and Sicily have created together, day after day, their joint history; in its moments of glory and in those of pain. And in the moments of solidarity, of relief: from the destructive earthquakes which have occurred over the centuries, the epidemics, the famines and the abuses of the conquests. The sea is a source of life for the men and women of this land surrounded by it, even though it can become a source of death, just as the waves die as they follow each other in perpetual and infinite motion. But it is also the discovery of new horizons, the construction of a new history of progress and civilization, source of boundless solidarity, as also happened for the children of this island, as it happens and still happens for the Knights and Dames of the Order of St. John.