Pope Receives Grand Master of the Order of Malta

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II received Fra Andrew Bertie, prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, in audience along with his entourage.

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The Vatican press office gave no details about today’s visit.

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta, better known as the Sovereign Order of Malta, has a twofold nature. It is one of the most ancient religious Catholic orders, founded in Jerusalem around 1050. At the same time it has always been recognized by nations as an independent subject of international law.

The order was born as a monastic community inspired by St. John the Baptist. This community, which was created by Amalfitan Merchants, ran a hospice providing care and shelter for pilgrims to the Holy Land. In 1113 it received formal acknowledgment as a religious order from Pope Paschal II.

Today, although some members of the order are professed knights (having taken the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience), others have pronounced only the promise of obedience. Most of the order’s 10,000 knights and dames are lay members.

The order works in the field of medical and social care and humanitarian aid, in more than 100 countries.

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