| KNIGHTS OF MALTA ASSIST JUBILEE PILGRIMS
|| Order's Grand Master Receives Ambassadors from 85 States
ROME, JAN 11 (ZENIT).- Ambassadors from 85 States met this morning in Rome, at the
headquarters of the Sovereign Order of Malta on the Aventine Hill, to participate in the
Diplomatic Corps' audience with the Grand Master, Friar Andrew Bertie, to exchange good
wishes for the new year.
Following a well-established tradition, the Grand Master made a summary of the main events in
the Order's life over the past year, giving general lines of activity for the future, including special
attention to the Jubilee celebration. The Knights of Malta have prepared a precise and very well
articulated program of assistance to pilgrims in need of emergency health care. Many of the
Knights will work as volunteers in Rome during the Jubilee Year.
Last year, the Order of Malta celebrated its 900th anniversary. It has organized meetings and
pilgrimages to commemorate periods of its history, from Malta to Rhodes and ending in Rome.
Over the past year, the Knights Roman headquarters have been visited by many heads of State,
including King Juan Carlos of Spain.
"The international community is committed today in various areas to reach the objectives of
pacification and liberation from need and suffering, which constantly challenge the conscience of
civil societies," Andrew Bertie said. The Order wishes to make its contribution to this process,
given its special charisms: the defense of faith through witness, not the sword, and service to the
The Knights of Malta are present in over 100 countries worldwide, through their own
international organizations, foundations, and coordination centers. The Order's humanitarian
action is carried out in more than 100 of its hospitals and thousands of out-patient clinics. Over
the past few years the Order has increased its assistance to victims of natural disasters and
armed conflicts, by creating care centers for refugees, rural hospitals, and distributing medicines
and first aid. In order to implement this work, it counts on the assistance of 40 rescue groups
that coordinate 80,000 permanent volunteers in different crisis zones.
The Sovereign Military and Hospitaler Order of St. John of Jerusalem was created in 1099 to
care for pilgrims and patients in Jerusalem. The Order's Rule, confirmed by Pope Paschal II
(1113) served as a model for other Hospitaler Orders. After the fall of Jerusalem in 1187, the
Order established itself in St. John of Acre (1285-1291). When that city was taken by the
Muslims, the Order sought refuge in Cyprus (1291) and controlled the island of Rhodes
(1308-1522), as a result of which they were known as the Knights of Rhodes. Following the
conquest of the Island, Charles V ceded Malta to them (1530-1798). After losing this Island
first to Napoleon (1798) and then to Great Britain (1800), the Order was reorganized in the
19th century in Italy. Today its sovereignty is recognized by 85 States. In honor of its 900th
anniversary, Malta ceded a historic castle on the island to the order.