Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem of
Rhodes and of Malta


Grand Commander visits Cameroon and meets Prime Minister

The deep bond between the African country and the Order of Malta was highlighted
Grand Commander visits Cameroon and meets Prime Minister

The Grand Commander of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’ Emmanuel Rousseau, visited Cameroon between 7 and 10 June for a series of spiritual and institutional encounters, beginning with the Cameroonian Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute, in which the deep bond between the African country and the Order of Malta, since diplomatic relations were established in 1961, was highlighted in an atmosphere of great cordiality.  The talks focussed on the Order of Malta’s numerous humanitarian activities in Cameroon, such as the Saint-Jean-de-Malte Hospital in Njombé, specialized in maternal and child healthcare, the paediatric oncology centre in Yaoundé and the Rohan-Chabot centre in Mokolo. During the meeting, the Grand Commander bestowed the Grand Officer Cross pro Merito Melitense upon the Prime Minister.

During his visit to the equatorial country, the Grand Commander participated in a charity auction, organised by the Order of Malta’s Embassy in Cameroon, to raise funds for cooperation and assistance projects, and especially for Cameroonian children needing healthcare. The charity evening was attended by the country’s high-ranking institutional representatives, including the Première Dame, Chantal Biya, the Minister of Health, Malachie Manaouda, and other members of parliament. Also present were the Order of Malta’s Ambassador to Cameroon, Jean-Christophe Heidsieck, organizer of the evening, representatives of the Ordre de Malte France, which manages the Order’s humanitarian projects in the country, and representatives of the Compagnie Fruitière.

The Grand Commander’s visit included numerous spiritual moments, starting with the visit to the monks of the Benedictine Notre-Dame Monastery of Mont Fébé, near the shrine of Notre-Dame de Lourdes.

The solemn mass celebrated on Sunday, June 9 in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in Yaoundé by Msgr. José Avelino Bettencourt, Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and Chaplain Grand Cross ad honorem of the Order, was preceded by an exchange of gifts between the Grand Commander and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Yaoundé, Msgr. Jean Mbarga, who recalled the importance of the Order’s works for the local church. The mass constituted a heartwarming moment of united prayer for the Cameroonian community present and the numerous institutional representatives, such as the Minister of Territorial Administration and Worship, Paul Atanga Nji – representing President Paul Biya – the Order’s Grand Commander and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Yaoundé, Msgr. Jean Mbarga. During the ceremony, the Apostolic Nuncio encouraged the Order of Malta to continue its important humanitarian works in Cameroon.

During his visit, the Grand Commander gave a speech in the headquarters of the Institute of International Relations of Cameroon (IRIC), on the Order of Malta’s nature, as well as its spiritual and diplomatic dimension, in the presence of the Delegate General for National Security, Martin Mbarga Nguélé, and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as ambassadors, researchers, professors and students.

The Grand Commander’s time in Cameroon ended with a visit to the National Archives, where he was welcomed by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Pierre Ismael Bidoung Mkpatt, and by Esther Olembé, director of the National Archives.  As curator of the Order’s Magistral Archives and Library, the Grand Commander had wanted to make a friendly visit to this historical administration, currently undergoing digital innovation.

Cameroon is the first country on the African continent with which the Order of Malta opened diplomatic relations in 1961, while it has been present since 1969 with social and healthcare activities. There have been numerous high-level encounters, the latest being a Grand Master’s visit to Cameroon in 2018.  In 2023 the Grand Hospitaller, Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis, made a working visit to the health managers of the centres run by the Order of Malta.