Malta has had a long and intense relationship with the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta. The period 1530-1798 has shaped
Malta and gave it a distinct place in history and a very characteristic baroque outlook.
In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte expelled the Order from Malta in 1798 and it was only after
a period of 200 years that the Order returned to Fort St Angelo in Malta. In 1960 the
Maltese Association of the Order was founded, and is still flourishing today. The Order is one of the oldest
institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1050, it is a lay religious Order,
traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. Its 12,500 members include Professed Friars and others who
have made vows of obedience. The other Knights and Dames are lay members, devoted to the exercise of
Christian virtue and charity. What distinguishes the Knights of Malta is their commitment to reaching their spiritual
perfection within the Church and to expending their energies serving the poor and the sick.
The Order of Malta remains true to its inspiring principles, summarised in the motto "Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium
Pauperum", defence of the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering, which become reality through the
voluntary work carried out by Dames and Knights in humanitarian assistance and medical and social activities.
The Order of Malta is one of the few Orders created in the Middle Ages and still active today. It is also the only
one that is at the same time religious and sovereign. This is due to the fact that most of the other Orders of
chivalry lacked the hospitaller function which characterises the Order of Malta, so they disappeared as soon as
the military purposes that represented the reasons for their existence ceased.
The knighthood nature explains and justifies the maintenance of the noble nature of the Order, as most of its
Religious Knights came from chivalrous and noble Christian families. Today the majority of Knights belong to all
classes of society. The members of the Order may be defined as Catholics enlivened by altruistic nobleness of
spirit and behaviour. All Knights must meet the traditional requirement for the bestowing of knighthood: distinguish
themselves for special virtues. The knighthood nature of the Order has kept its moral value, characterised by the
spirit of service, sacrifice and discipline of today's Knights. Battles are no longer fought with swords, but with the
peaceful tools of the fight against disease, poverty, social isolation and intolerance, as well as the defence and
promotion of the faith.
The Order of Malta has been a religious Order since 1113, the year it was recognised by Pope Paschal II. As a
religious Order, it is linked to the Holy See, but at the same time it is independent as a sovereign subject of
In this respect the religious character of the Order coexists with its full sovereignty. The Grand Master is at the
same time head of a sovereign State and head of a religious Order. In this second capacity the Holy Roman
Church gives him the rank of Cardinal. The Order of Malta is a lay religious Order according to Canon Law, where
some of its members are religious - they have professed the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience - and
others have taken a special vow of obedience, while the great majority of the knights and dames are lay
members. The Grand Master of the Order is elected from among the Professed Knights of Perpetual Vows. The
eight-pointed Cross which symbolises the Order represents the eight Beatitudes and is thus a visual memento of
The Order follows its historic rule of "obsequium pauperum" for the needy and the sick, and today operates in
more than 120 countries, irrespective of their creed, giving medical and social help, through disaster relief in the
case of armed conflicts or natural catastrophes, as well as helping young people and providing first aid training. In
carrying out these activities, it relies on the involvement of its 12,000 members, as well as approximately 80,000
trained volunteers and 11,000 employees, most of whom are medical personnel.
The Order's national organisations (including its Grand Priories, National Associations, relief organisations and
foundations) in the countries where they are present, are responsible for carrying out the Order's activities. The
permanent institutions - such as hospitals, hospices and old peoples' homes - are either managed directly by the
Priories or Associations, or by subordinate bodies.
Hospitals, Medical Centres and Medical Programmes
Most of the Order's hospitals are situated in Europe, in particular, in Germany, France, Belgium, England and
Italy, with the majority being general hospitals. The Order's hospital in Rome is specialised in neurological
treatment and rehabilitation. The hospitals in England and Belgium, as well as some in Germany, have special
units for the treatment of the terminally ill, with appropriate palliative specialists. Similar special units work in
Argentina, Australia, Italy, South Africa and the USA. Care for the terminally ill in hospitals, hospices and at home
has developed during recent years into one of the fundamental projects among the Order's activities.
INTERNATIONAL HOSPITALLER COMMITTEE OF THE ORDER OF MALTA
The International Hospitaller Committee of the Order of Malta coordinates the international activites of the Order’s
Its mission is to promote the international activities of the Order and the identity of those of its institutions which
operate at the international level, in accordance with the Order’s mission.
Malteser International is the Order of Malta’s international relief organisation for medical and humanitarian aid. Its
worldwide operations include emergency medical interventions, long term reconstruction and development
Since June 2005, Malteser International has replaced ECOM (Emergency Corps of the Order of Malta). It has a
new administrative structure and a long experience in humanitarian operations such as the Kosovo emergency of
1999, after the Bam earthquake in Iran (2004), after the tsunami which struck south-east Asia in December 2004.
CIOMAL, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE ORDER OF MALTA
CIOMAL, the International Committee of the Order of Malta, was created in 1958 and for over 40 years has been
fighting the scourge of leprosy and those marginalised by society as a result of having the disease.
In 1999 CIOMAL’s mission was extended to ‘the fight against any type of disease or disability that causes
ostracism’. CIOMAL’s most recent programmes have been focused on mothers and children in the developing
world who are suffering from AIDS.
The diplomatic activities of the Order are closely linked to its humanitarian mission: in fact, the presence of
accredited diplomatic missions in more than 96 countries of the world supports the activities of the Order. In the
international political field, the Order of Malta is neutral, impartial and non-political. Therefore, due to these
characteristics, the Order can act as a mediator whenever a State pleads its intervention to settle a dispute.
The Order has experienced a steady increase in its diplomatic relations in recent years. Today the Order has
Embassies in 96 countries - many of which are non-Catholic - and missions to major European countries, as well
as to European and international organisations.
For further information see the web page of
The Maltese Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Blessed Gerard, founder of the Order