Letter of Lieutenant of the Grand Master Fra’ John Dunlap in response to Pope Francis’ message for 56th World Peace Day, celebrated on 1 January 2023
Most Blessed Father,
At the end of this year, so difficult and painful for a great part of the human family, Your Holiness’s message for the International Day of Peace brings us the result of a profound and painful reflection, inviting us to make it ours, each with their own means and possibilities, to continue and develop it as a path to follow in our journey in 2023. Reading this message which, like every year, we propose for the reflection of the Order of Malta’s over 13,000 members and 150,000 volunteers and employees, recalls the Order’s primary and essential mission of assistance to the poor and the sick in a spirit of Christian charity that transforms every action into a prayer to the Lord.
The pandemic that has struck the entire world, and that even today escapes any control even in major and scientifically advanced nations, has represented a great human tragedy. But it has also been an unexpected and unrelenting accelerator of processes already underway, such as significant and not always positive changes in the production and trade of goods, in the way we communicate and interact with our neighbour, in teaching and even in religious practice.
Three years after the outbreak of the pandemic and ten months after the beginning of the Ukrainian tragedy, we are finding it difficult to distinguish the consequences and the interactions between one and the other, but we cannot but note dangerous and serious challenges for a serene, balanced and just human coexistence. The broad lines of the trend we see unfolding before us go contrary to our hopes, so powerfully proposed and defended by Your Holiness. Inequalities are rapidly increasing within individual countries and between nations, poverty is growing and the objective of “zero hunger”, that less than ten years ago the International Community had committed itself to achieve, is still distant. The production and sale of armaments is growing year after year, and even the “protection agenda”, that multilateralism in which humanity had placed so many hopes, is in deep crisis.
We are still far from understanding how to cope with new and rapidly changing phenomena, and the teaching of Your Holiness, the observation that “the many moral, social, political and economic crises we are experiencing are all interconnected”, will help us to find a way that reduces the negative effects and enhances the positive effects of the great trials to which the whole of humanity has been and still is subjected.
We are struck by the simple and essential invitation that comes from Your Holiness’s message, which we receive “toto corde” and with filial devotion “together!”. We will treasure it and keep it in our hearts in the year ahead.
Your Holiness, please accept the assurance of my devotion and that of the entire Order of St. John of Jerusalem, with the pledge of my constant prayer, as well as that of the community of the Grand Magisterium and of the entire Order.
Fra’ John Dunlap