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


Order of Malta’s IX Conference of the Americas in Panama closes with new synergies

Grand Master’s exhortation: "On the side of the poor, always"
Order of Malta’s IX Conference of the Americas in Panama closes with new synergies

Today the Sovereign Military Order of Malta’s IX Conference of the Americas comes to a close. For four days, over 120 representatives of national associations and diplomatic missions of North, Central and South America have gathered in Panama, together with the Order’s leaders.

“we must tackle the causes of poverty by rooting out institutional injustice and building a fair and equitable society,” urged Grand Master Fra’ John Dunlap in his opening speech. “The recognition of this fact – that poverty is structural — underlies the Order of Malta’s approach to its hospitaller works. If we are to contribute to the lessening of poverty in the world,” the Grand Master said, “We cannot minimize the consequences. We cannot blame the victim.” Recalling the words of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fra’ John reiterated: “WE must be on the side of the poor. WE must recognise the “preferential option for the poor.” WE must tackle the causes of poverty”.

During the conference, in which the Order of Malta’s Cardinal Patron Gianfranco Ghirlanda also participated, the various economic and social situations in the three American subcontinents were examined in depth, from the tragedy of refugee children to the overcrowding of prisons, from human trafficking to malnutrition. These are all areas in which the Order of Malta is active, running hundreds of projects thanks to its members and volunteers and in synergy with other organizations such as IILA, the Italian-Latin American Organization and “Food for the Poor”, an NGO that operates in Latin American countries, the Order of Malta’s partner in various humanitarian activities. But more can be done, urged the Grand Master, himself of Canadian nationality: “Think creatively how we can best confront those problems. Recognize that, once again, God has intervened benevolently in the life of the Order. He has strengthened us through the renewal, so that, reinvigorated, we, in turn, can better serve our lords, the poor and the sick”.

For his part, Grand Chancellor Riccardo Paternò di Montecupo, invited the Order of Malta as a whole to take a qualitative leap, since “in the third millennium, a considerable level of professionalism is required in every field, including in the field of volunteering and humanitarian activities”. For this purpose, a fund (OMDP, Order of Malta – Donors for Projects) has been created to raise money for the Order’s activities worldwide. The strong desire to coordinate the activities of all the Order’s entities and diplomatic missions and to improve communication, so that the impact of their initiatives can be increasingly recognized, has the same objective.

The IX Conference of the Americas was also an opportunity for the Grand Master to visit the President of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, and for the Order’s leaders to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Deputy Minister of Health and the Minister of the Panama Canal.

The long-awaited appointment across the Atlantic – four intense days of profitable exchanges thanks to an attentive agenda curated by Ambassador Lupo del Bono and the President of the Panamanian Association Vittorio de Sanctis de Ferrari – also saw the inauguration of the “Casa Orden de Malta” for the charitable activities of the Panamanian Association and the consecration in the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Antigua de Panamà of an altar dedicated to the Order of Malta. On the closing day of 2nd March, a Mass for Peace will be celebrated in Panama Cathedral, during which there will be the investiture of five new members of the Order of Malta, including three women.