The Order of Malta “intends to be on the front line” in encouraging ecumenical dialogue, “ready to respond to every initiative devoted to create reconciliation and fraternal understanding between the two religious wings of European Christianity.” With these words the Order of Malta’s Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing received Hilarion Alfeev, the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and Chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, in the Magistral Villa in Rome today.
The Grand Master recalled the humanitarian assistance the Order has provided since 1992 when the Russian Federation was faced with “massive economic problems” after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “The Order of Malta,” Fra’ Matthew Festing stated, “could not stand by while people were in need. Hence social centres for the poor were gradually established in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Smolensk and Dubna”.
“We share the same values,” the Metropolitan replied, “and we must work together not only against the secularization of Europe, but also to promote the defence of human life, from birth to death. The Order of Malta is known for its humanitarian initiatives worldwide. This is another sector where we can collaborate to help the poor and needy, as Our Lord requested”.
One of the projects discussed with the Metropolitan concerned free medical assistance in the Order of Malta’s Italian clinics for Russian Orthodox pilgrims , now travelling more frequently to Italy. In the hope that the Metropolitan Hilarion will be successful in his “sacred and historic task” of advancing ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Catholic Church, the Grand Master pledged the Order’s full collaboration in this mission. He also sent his sincere good wishes for health and prosperity to His Holiness Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.