The culminating moment at the end of the solemn Mass in St.Peter’s Basilica, celebrated by the Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone for the 900th anniversary since the granting of the Bull by Pope Paschal II (15 February 2013), was the address by Pope Benedict XVI to the packed congregation. Over 5,000 members and volunteers of the Order from all over the world joined in celebration, led by the Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing. Also present were the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, representing the President of the Republic of Italy, together with the heads of state of the Principality of Monaco, Morocco and Jordan, King Simeon II of Bulgaria, King Michael of Romania, the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Michel Bernier, and many civic authorities, 170 ambassadors and diplomatic representatives, and a delegation from the Order of St.John.
‘This important event takes on a special meaning in the context of the Year of the Faith, during which the Church is called to renew the joy and the commitment of belief in Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world. In this regard, you too are called to welcome this time of grace, so as to deepen your knowledge of the Lord and to cause the truth and beauty of the faith to shine forth, through the witness of your lives and your service, in this present time.
‘And by faith, down the centuries, the members of your Order have given themselves completely, firstly in the care of the sick in Jerusalem and then in aid to pilgrims in the Holy Land who were exposed to grave dangers: their lives have added radiant pages to the annals of Christian charity and protection of Christianity. In the nineteenth century, the Order opened up to new and more ample forms of apostolate in the area of charitable assistance and service of the sick and the poor, but without ever abandoning the original ideals, especially that of the intense spiritual life of individual members.
‘Dear friends, continue working in society and in the world along the elevated paths indicated by the Gospel faith and charity, for the renewal of hope… These ideals are aptly expressed in your motto: Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum. These words summarise well the charism of your Order which, as a subject of international law, aims not to exercise power and influence of a worldly character, but in complete freedom to accomplish its own mission for the integral good of man, spirit and body, both individually and collectively, with special regard to those whose need of hope and love is greater.’
In his address to the members of the Order, Fra’ Matthew Festing, recalled the mission, past, present and future, of the Sovereign Order of Malta: ‘We have carried out an important role in innumerable historical events, often dramatic ones. The Order of Malta has often been forced to abandon what it had set up, and to start again. The Order has weathered vicissitudes which threatened its very existence. But from the distance of almost a thousand years, we are still here. The mission is always the same: to continue our fight against poverty, sickness and suffering on every continent. It is a mission as necessary today as it was nine hundred years ago – to alleviate physical and spiritual pain, to promote peace and justice and to help those in great need.’
The full text of Pope Benedict’s address: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2013/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20130209_ordine-malta_en.html