13 October 2021, Sant’Anton Palace
Ambassador Ruffo di Calabria
It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you all for the second symposium in the Cultural Series Symposia that my Office has launched a few months ago and which has intended to spearhead conversations around cultural diplomacy. It has also contributed to the fostering of better intra-state relations at the highest office of the state.
The Sovereign Order of Malta shall be today’s focus of a number of papers and interviews, discussions and conversations that seek to promote a better understanding of the Order of Malta as it stands today, including its mission, its ethos and significance in our modern world.
I have a priori to thank the organisers of this symposium, and thank in particular each and every speaker for his/her contributions to this subject, which concerns the Sovereign Military Order, as it does the history and the socio-economic development of our country between the mid-16th and all of the 18th Century.
As we will be hearing from our contributors, the Order during its heyday was a proud, influential, and important religio-military organisation. Towards the end of its stay in Malta, the Order had gradually morphed into an almost unrecognisable version of what it stood for when instituted in the 11th Century.
After leaving Malta in 1798, it never retained its original glory. Today, the Order has its international connections and representations, and it is known globally for its dedication to look after the sick and the under privileged.
In Malta too, the Order, even though it has the necessary facilities to organise meetings, seminars, and conferences about the Order’s past and present, has limited itself to organising pilgrimages, administering to the sick and the ones in correctional facilities, as well as helping with local charities looking after the disadvantaged, the disabled and single mothers and their minor children.
I wish to be taken in good part when I say, that whilst I fully appreciate all that is being done, I honestly believe that much more can be done to revive the historical link between Malta and the Order of St John.
Back in 1530, the Order brought to the island the necessary resources, be they material or financial, to transform the island into a veritable fortress at the centre of the Mediterranean. Thanks to the Order of St John, the island earned the celebrated title – Propugnaculum Europae – the defender of Europe.
The Order of St John gave to Malta its fortress identity with the ever-increasing construction of fortification lines which not only kept enemy at bay but also securely held the cultural heritage treasures that were then and still are today the pride and joy of these islands. Indeed, the islands that the Order of St John left behind in 1798 were a far cry from those it set its foot on in 1530.
Besides its fortifications, the Order also took Malta into the mainstream cultural and artistic developments that were taking place in mainland Europe. Today much of our architectural, cultural, and artistic heritage was bequeathed to us by the Order of St John.
The bonding of the Order with Malta did indeed lead to Malta giving its very name to the Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem to become known as the Order of Malta. It is this legacy that binds Nation and Order together in the strongest of relations for posterity.
It is with this thought that I welcome this symposium as a moment of reflection. Indeed, the history of the Order of St John has its fundamental relevance and significance that continues to be underpinned, valued, and celebrated till his very day.
Over time, the Order of St John has however changed and transformed itself into a sovereign institution that is today more focused and committed to its original values and ideals. Indeed, the Order’s continued existence after its glorious Maltese period depended heavily on its shedding its military ambitions and embracing again the hospitaller functions for which it was originally set up.
Even in this new vocation, the Order of Malta have still got huge potential to once again work together with us to revive and keep alive the presence of the Order of St John in the Mediterranean Island of Malta.
The scholars, academics and special guests invited to participate in this symposium shall be sharing their knowledge and expertise on a broad range of related topics and subjects. I am sure that their papers will shed valuable light on the richness and depth of this formative period of our history.
I thank all of those involved for their efforts and contributions to this Symposium and wish each and every one every success.