VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed appreciation for the evangelizing work of the Sovereign Order of Malta, especially among the poor, when he received its grand master in audience.
“I am pleased to take advantage of the occasion to express greetings to all the members of this distinguished institution that operates in various parts of the world,” the Pope said in his address today to his guest, Fra Andrew Bertie.
“The Holy See appreciates the numerous services it renders to the cause of evangelization and, in particular, the multiple initiatives for good that it constantly promotes in favor of the needy,” the Holy Father said.
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, established 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.