The Christmas holidays are now imminent and I would like to send all members of the Order my best wishes for a peaceful Holy Christmas and a Happy New Year.
This year, as in every year, the Order has carried out numerous actions in favour of the needy, the poor and the sick. Among the activities to help the populations affected by natural disasters, the most significant were in Peru after the huge earthquake last summer, and in Burkina Faso and Mexico, where violent rainstorms caused disastrous flooding. In all these tragedies our National Associations and Malteser International, assisted by volunteers from the local ambulance corps, intervened promptly, sending medicines, equipment and basic necessities to the affected populations. Besides managing these emergencies, the Order continued its unceasing medical and welfare services in 120 countries.
The most significant events of 2007 included the historic visit of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the San Giovanni Battista hospital here in Rome, and the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The Holy Father’s recent visit to our Rome hospital was an occasion of deep spirituality and intense emotion for the Order. During Holy Mass, celebrated by His Holiness for the sick, their families, and the Order’s doctors, volunteers and members, the Pope symbolically consigned to us his latest Encyclical Spe Salvi, uttering words full of hope for those who suffer and for those who try to alleviate their suffering. We should all appreciate that it was an exceptional privilege for the Order of Malta to receive the Holy Father.
The Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in October, made by 1350 members of the Order, was another historic event. The visit to the holy places in Jerusalem, cradle of Christianity and of our institution, was an opportunity for contemplation in an atmosphere of profound spirituality. Another significant occasion was the visit to our Holy Family maternity hospital in Bethlehem, which continues to offer assistance in one of the most troubled areas in the world.
I want to thank all those who offer their prayers, their time and their help for the work of our beloved Order and once again wish you all a Christmas full of serenity and peace.