The Grand Master’s meeting in Warsaw with the President of the Polish Republic Lech Kaczynski and the joint signature with the Health Minister of a framework cooperation agreement were two of the most significant moments of the state visit of H.M.E.H. Fra’ Andrew Bertie to Poland.
Received at the presidential palace with military honours, after the exchange of decorations, the Grand Master and the President of the Republic, flanked by their respective delegations and by ambassadors Vincenzo Manno and Hanna Suchocka, enjoyed a long and cordial conversation. A tangible sign of solid bilateral relations is the signature of the cooperation agreement for medical and hospital assistance. The order’s Grand Hospitaller and the Polish Health Minister signed a document that will help to improve the assistance given by the Order of Malta’s Polish Association, and in particular to the poorest and most needy. There will also be increasing support for terminal patients and the disabled through the numerous Order of Malta centres active in Poland, as well as cooperation for the development of emergency and first-aid medicine.
There were numerous meetings in Warsaw with the country’s highest-ranking personalities, including the Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Polish Parliament Speaker, Ludwik Dorn, the Vice Speaker of the Senate, Ryszard Legutko, the Cardinal Primate Józef Glemp and the Apostolic Nuncio in Poland Msgr. Jozef Kowalczyk. A State Dinner was offered by the President of the Republic in honour of the Grand Master.
The appointments in Krakow
The Grand Master’s visit to Poland began in Krakow. The first official appointment was the meeting with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. This encounter highlighted a significant guiding thread of the itinerary, the profound historical bonds between the Order and Poland and the extraordinary relationship of friendship, loyalty and reciprocal esteem linking the Order to the charismatic figure of Pope Wojtyla. One of the Grand Master’s most important engagements in Krakcow was his participation in the procession in honour of St. Stanislaus, patron of the city, with the President of the Polish Republic and Cardinals Glemp, Macharski, Dziwisz and Schoenborn.
There was an inspiring visit to the Sanctuary of Jasna Gòra in Czestochowa, in which the Grand Master rendered homage to the Black Madonna. Another important moment was the signature of a cooperation agreement with the Sanctuary visited by over five million pilgrims every year providing medical equipment and medicines for the vocational training of first-aid personnel. This agreement underscores the Order of Malta’s oldest vocation, that of assistance to pilgrims.
The meetings in the Order’s welfare facilities
Fra’ Andrew Bertie’s meeting with representatives of the Order’s Polish Association in the welfare facilities for children and disabled youths in Krakow and Warsaw rendered homage to the Order’s centuries-old presence in the country. The Order’s Polish Association now operates in numerous areas, including assistance to and treatment of drug addicts, economic support for families in difficulty, diagnosis and free treatment for cancer, therapeutic centres for mental patients and emergency services for victims of natural catastrophes.
An historic visit
The visit ending on 15 May was the first one that a Grand Master of the Order of Malta had made to Poland since that carried out by Grand Master Chigi Albani della Rovere in 1931.