Pope Francis received Fra’ Matthew Festing, Grand Master of the Order of Malta, yesterday at the Vatican. During the course of their conversation, which lasted some 16 minutes, with the help of an interpreter, the Grand Master explained to the Pontiff the Order’s commitment to help refugees and migrants in different parts of the world, from the Middle East to Africa, informed a Vatican note.

Festing then made reference to numerous projects underway geared to providing medical help to refugees fleeing from war, violence and poverty, and also projects of social support to refugees in countries of destination, such as France and Germany. For his part, the Pope thanked the Order for the many humanitarian and welfare activities addressed to migrants, also with a reference to the commitment shown recently at Rome in the distribution of meals to Eritrean migrants received in the Baobab center.

Both then expressed their profound concern over the growing traffic of human beings in the Mediterranean, many of whom are unaccompanied children. Festing mentioned the commitment of doctors of the Order of Malta on board the boats of the Military Navy, the Coast Guards and the Customs Service.

Reference was also made during the meeting to the initiatives of a spiritual nature that characterized the life of the Order, such as the pilgrimages, the formation of new members and Spiritual Retreats.

At the end of the meeting, the Pope also received the Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Albrecht Boeselager, and all the members of the Government. Later the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, received some members of the Delegation.

At the moment of the exchange of gifts, the Grand Master gave the Holy Father a medal depicting Saint John Beheaded, whose original is kept in the church of the Knights of Malta. The Pontiff in turn gave him a bas-relief of Saint Martin of Tours and a copy, in English, of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and of the new Encyclical Laudato Si’.