portrait_grasset_frederic_defFounded at the end of the eleventh century, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem Rhodes and Malta, more generally known as the Sovereign Order of Malta or Order of Malta, is one of the oldest institutions of Christian civilization .

It is surprising that such an institution has thus crossed the centuries. His first rooting in the East, in the Holy Land, undoubtedly procured it unalterable titles and an inter-religious creed whose time did not exhaust the effects. But behind this retrospective observation is a specific development: from hospitable by vocation and then military by necessity at first, the charitable function has finally imposed.

The order could have disappeared for the very reasons that had presided at its birth: armed struggles and confrontations, long strategic battles with the Ottoman Empire … on this permanent crescent of crisis that is the Mediterranean; but the first impulse, that of the message of the Gospel, which always pushes the Order towards the poor and the sick, has renewed throughout the generations the bases of its perenniality. Yesterday in Malta in front of  the Turkish Fleet , today in Lampedusa to welcome refugees mostly Muslim.

It is even more surprising that such an institution could have retained the attributes of an original sovereignty with a limited territorial base – Rhodes in 1310 and then Malta until 1798 – but with an influence inversely proportional to the size of Its rights-of-way. At each steps in its history, the Order has endevour to be what the language of the moment designates as a global actor. Simply because its action does not dissociate itself from its spiritual foundation. The Order has sometimes spread with conquerors; He especially grew up with servants.

He now acts throughout the world, adjusting his action to the conditions of the place and the moment. At the same time to respond to crises, natural disasters, to the world’s miseries, and also to establish itself in continuity. This lasting and long term action is a recognized strength by many actors of the international community, states, multilateral institutions, research organizations, think tanks.

As a subject of public international law, the Order of Malta has experienced a marked intensification of diplomatic relations in recent years. Today, it maintains full diplomatic relations with 106 States and the European Union and has a permanent observer to the United Nations and the main international organizations.

Two concepts emerge from its history, Religion and Humanity. Perhaps they are the profound springs of this astonishing originality, this paradoxical survival, this renewed sovereignty.

The first is again a powerful marker of the century. A Roman Catholic order, mainly composed of laymen, the Order saw it as a crossroad and a source of exchange and mediation. The second would only be an unfinished dream if it remained enclosed in the texts. The Order transforms it into humanitarian action.Indeed, Human Rights, the first stage of international law, has been modernized in humanitarian action and the convulsions of our time call for a diplomacy of the same nature whose legitimacy is not based on power but on conviction , Impartiality and achievement. Multiple actors, professionals and volunteers are the agents of this field diplomacy whose purpose is not the political advantage but the protection of the victims. The history of the Order shows that it is a natural and permanent exercise for it.

The Order of Malta, which is very committed to the Middle East and Africa, as well as to Asia, is simply seeking to renew and expand its health, medico-social and humanitarian actions. First,it has to try to better understand the complexity of the world. Then, it must act with a vision both global and local in this international community that fights against the ravages of violence and exclusion, disease and poverty.

Singular player of the international arena, his special status allows it to deploy its charitable and humanitarian action in the world, and to make humanitarian diplomacy a force for the weakest, regardless of origin, religion or resource.

Ambassador Frédéric Grasset

The Order of Malta in a few figures …

Its religious and charitable vocation at the service of the poor, the sick and the refugees leads today the Order of Malta to be active in more than 120 countries thanks to its 13,500 members, 25,000 medical and health personnel and 80 000 permanent volunteers; It also intervenes as a first emergency in areas affected by natural disasters and conflicts and assures by its presence the continuity of actions of medico-social relief to the local populations and, participates in the rehabilitation of affected areas.

Go to The Order of Malta website

Go to The French Foundation of the Order of Malta website