VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI on Thursday discussed some of the multiple works of charity being carried out by the Military Order of Malta.
The Pope was visited by the order’s grand master, Fra Matthew Festing, as the order celebrated the feast of its patron, St. John the Baptist. The group also celebrated in Rome this month their general chapter.
In the 25-minute meeting, the Holy Father and the grand master discussed the order’s 10-year plan established during the strategy meeting held January in Venice.
They also considered ecumenical dialogue promoted by the order with the Russian Orthodox Church, medical and social care administered in the Holy Land, and assistance to immigrants offered in collaboration with the Italian coast guard. They discussed as well the humanitarian aid offered by the order in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
The leaders paused in consideration of the assistance rendered to earthquake victims in L’Aquila by the Italian branch of the order. This group, made up of some 2,000 volunteers, provided medical assistance and food for the quake victims.
Benedict XVI lauded the work of the order and urged them to stay faithful to their charism of caring for the poor and sick, giving testimony of the faith.
The Holy Father also greeted the members of the order’s governing body, the majority of whom were elected for another five years during the general chapter.
After the meeting with the Pontiff, Festing went on to meet with the Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, for some 40 minutes.
The origins of the Order of Malta, an international hospitaller and relief organization, date back to 1050, when it was founded as a fraternity at the service of St. John’s Hospital in Jerusalem.
Today the order carries out humanitarian assistance and medical and social activities in 120 countries.