Your Eminence Archbishop of Malta,
Your Excellency Grand Chancellor Paterno’ di Montecupo,
Your Excellency Ambassador Ruffo Di Calabria,
It is a great pleasure for me to honour our annual tradition to celebrate together the feast of St John the Baptist, Patron Saint of the Sovereign Military Order of St John, of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta.
Relations between Malta and the Sovereign Military Order of St John are marked by the strong historical links that bind us and are reflected in the rich cultural heritage left to us by the Knights of Malta.
It is impossible to miss the rich and vast legacy The Order built here on the Maltese islands.
During its two hundred and sixty-eight (268) year rule in Malta, The Order steered the country towards the mainstream cultural and artistic developments that were taking place in mainland Europe.
Much of Malta’s architectural, cultural and artistic heritage originated as a consequence of The Order’s influence on the islands.
Before proceeding however, allow me to warmly congratulate The Order for the appointment of its 81st Grand Master, His Most Eminent Highness Fra’ John Dunlap, whom I had the honour of meeting earlier today.
The election of the Grand Master opens a new phase in the life of The Order, which under its long-standing vocation, continually works for the sick and the disadvantaged around the world.
The feast of St John the Baptist, the Holy Patron of the Order, is the most auspicious occasion, not only for remembering the centuries old vocation raison d’être of The Order has made, but also to outline the valuable role that The Order is still playing now, and hopefully will continue to play in the future.
Over the past centuries, The Order has been a stalwart defender of the sick, the poor and the oppressed. It continued nurturing a strong vocation to assist those who need The Order’s help, without making any distinction of nationality, creed, skin colour, or gender.
Notwithstanding periods of renewal along the years, The Order has firmly upheld with conviction and determination the hospitaller principles that served as its bedrock since its inception way back in the early years of the 12th Century, besides its chivalric and subsequent military functions.
It is noteworthy however that The Order still champions the same commitments today. The Order builds hospitals, treats the sick, and never hesitates to put itself on the front line wherever conflict occurs. Much like Malta, The Order adopts neutrality as an instrument that enables it to remain committed to the defence of humanity and the protection of human life.
I praise the way The Order was able to quickly mobilise its team in Ukraine to relieve the suffering and hardship of the many refugees fleeing the brutal Russian aggression. We should be grateful for The Order’s important role in helping thousands of Ukrainian citizens fleeing the unprovoked and illegal war by Russia.
The images of brutal destruction and human suffering reaching us from Ukraine are testimony of the need to prioritise the interests of humanity over political and military aspirations.
Furthermore, transnational threats to our collective security, like the global climate crisis, terrorism, organised crime, and unregulated migration, not only pose a challenge to our immediate region, but also have a serious impact on the stability of the world.
To this effect, I am pleased to note that both Malta and The Order firmly believe that the resolution of these issues must rest on cooperative initiatives. It is crucial that we nurture an environment conducive to consensus through dialogue and diplomacy.
Indeed, relations between Malta and the Order are characterized by a strong sense of shared values and principles.As the level of global peace continues to deteriorate, we both believe that mutual respect, tolerance, cooperation and dialogue are the indispensable means which we have at our disposal to strengthen the cause of peace.
As an elected member of the United Nations Security Council, Malta will remain committed to play a significant role in the maintenance of peace and security in the European region and beyond by actively engaging with all countries in the spirit of openness and dialogue
Both Malta and The Order have a mutual interest to safeguard the continued relevance of a rules-based international order. Malta remains committed to continue working closely with the Order to ensure the development and further consolidation of long-lasting multilateral relationships.
I would like to conclude by urging The Order to strengthen its visibility on the Maltese islands. I envisage further collaboration between The Order and the government, local NGOs, philanthropic and charitable organisations, and explore new synergies which can benefit all stakeholders.
Beyond the local context, The Order’s presence in Malta could also be an instrumental springboard that enhances the Order’s footprint in the Mediterranean region and beyond.
In these challenging times, it is vital that we work closely together to counter the threats to international peace and security. Malta will always provide steadfast support to The Order’s invaluable work on the local and the international scene.
Grand Chancellor Paterno’ di Montecupo,
Ambassador Ruffo Di Calabria,
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
I invite you to raise your glasses and toast to the health of His Most Eminent Highness, Fra’ John Dunlap, and to the sincere centuries-old friendship between Malta and the Sovereign Military Order of St John, of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta.