Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. On the occasion of the feast of St. John the Baptist, your Holy Patron, you have wanted to gather for a solemn celebration in the basilica dedicated to him. I welcome to each of you and I greet the entire Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, called the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which has recently celebrated its General Chapter.
I greet especially the Prince and Grand Master Fra’ Andrew Bertie, the “Cardinalis Patronus Pio Laghi, the Prelate Monsignor Donato de Bonis, the Grand Chancellor and the dignitaries of the just renewed Sovereign Council. I wish you all successful work in the service of God, the Church and the Order.
For over nine hundred years, your meritorious Order has been bearing faithful witness in the world to its motto: “Tuitio fidei, obsequium pauperum”, corresponding to the evangelical command to “Love God and love thy neighbour”.
2. You are fully convinced that the defence and expression of the Faith constitutes the basis of evangelisation, and you want to offer your contribution so that the evangelical message can continue to illuminate also the third millennium of the Christian era, now imminent. To this end, you feel pledged to act out your allegiance to Christ through the expression of love, which becomes service to your brethren, especially to the poor: what you rightly call “obsequium pauperum”.
Your presence alongside the sick and the suffering, earthquake victims and refugees effectively testifies to this love for the least. It qualifies your religious and sovereign Order as a worthy structure that shoulders the burden of human suffering.
Remain strong in your allegiance to Christ, the Church and the poor. Bear always in mind the words of Jesus: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15.12), and again: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25.40).
While I hope that your meritorious action may intensify, I entreat for each of you the maternal protection of your heavenly Patron, the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Philéremo, who has always accompanied you at home and in exile. May the Order’s holy Patron, St. John the Baptist, herald of the presence of Christ in the history of the world, also support you.
With these sentiments, I willingly impart the Apostolic Benediction to the Grand Master, to all you present and to the entire Sovereign Military Order of Malta, particularly to the sick and the suffering you assist in every part of the world.