Held on the feastday of St. John the Baptist, the Sovereign Order of Malta’s patron
This morning in the Vatican City, Pope Francis received in audience the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing.
During the meeting, the Grand Master illustrated to the Pontiff the Order’s work in assisting refugees and migrants in various parts of the world, from the Middle East to Africa. Fra’ Matthew Festing talked about the numerous projects underway to provide healthcare for displaced people fleeing from wars, violence and poverty, and also the social support projects for refugees in the countries of destination, such as France and Germany.
Pope Francis thanked the Grand Master for the many humanitarian and welfare services it provides for migrants, referring also to the commitment recently demonstrated in Rome in distributing meals to Eritrean refugees housed in the Baobab centre.
The Pontiff and the Grand Master expressed their profound anxiety about the growing traffic of people in the Mediterranean, including many unaccompanied children. Fra’ Matthew Festing pointed out the Order of Malta’s efforts on board the Italian Navy, Coastguard and Customs Police vessels.
During the meeting, mention was also made of the spiritual initiatives that are an indispensable part of the Order’s life, such as the pilgrimages, the formation of new members and spiritual retreats.
At the end of the encounter, the Pope also received the Order of Malta’s Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Boeselager, and all the Government members. Subsequently, a part of the delegation was received by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
The meeting between the Holy Father and the Grand Master took place in the Pontiff’s private study. According to tradition, the audience occurs on the feastday of the Sovereign Order of Malta’s patron, St. John the Baptist, celebrated on 24 June.
Photographs: Osservatore Romano