Dear Members, Volunteers and Friends of the Order of Malta,
We have all seen a year of great crises in the world, with a particular concern for the thousands of asylum seekers and refugees who are making their way into Europe from Africa, Asia and the Middle East – the greatest movements of peoples since the Second World War.
The Order of Malta has been in the front line to help these desperate people, providing medical and psychosocial care at refugee camps, first aid posts and established facilities in many countries, through the support of our Associations, embassies, auxiliary organisations and volunteers. In many countries – Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Sudan, Turkey – the Order has been offering assistance, for months and in many cases for years – providing medicines, clothing, food, shelter, social care and support. I commend all for this demanding commitment to those in great need.
I continue to visit many of you and witness your excellent works. To select a very few from a very long list, early in the year I was delighted to attend the twentieth anniversary celebrations of our auxiliary organisation in Albania; in the Philippines I saw at first hand the reconstruction work the Order has carried out providing 700 homes after typhoon Haiyan; and in Malta I was able to offer our support and advice in treating the migrants constantly arriving by sea – an activity we have carried out on the southern Italian coast since 2008. I was also very pleased to visit the Guide Dogs for the Blind service on the island of Malta.
Whilst we care for those needing our help in exceptional circumstances, we carry on our activities of support all over the world, all year, and I am aware of your devotion to duty to our Lords the sick, everywhere, every day.
And now, at Christmas time, when we come together to celebrate Christ’s birth and to share that joy and hospitality with our families and friends, we plan special events for those in our care, those less fortunate than ourselves, especially the homeless, the elderly, the lonely, the disadvantaged children.
This year closes with the start of a special event: the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis on 8th December. At our newly renovated First-Aid Post in St Peter’s Square, which I had the privilege of inaugurating on 7th December, we will welcome during this special year 2500 Order members and volunteers, doctors, nurses and first aiders from around the world. They – you – will assist pilgrims there, as well as in the three other major Roman basilicas (St John Lateran, St Paul Outside the Walls and St Mary Major).
Your consistency and devotion to helping others is most praiseworthy and I thank you, one and all, for your work and your dedication to the mission of the Order: tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum. What our forebears set up almost a thousand years ago is as relevant today as it was then.
A very happy and holy Christmas to you, your families and all who work with the Order of Malta.
Fra’ Matthew Festing