February 2013 – 900th Anniversary of the Order of Malta
On February 15, 2013, the Order will celebrate the 900th anniversary of the issuance of Pie postulatio voluntatis, the papal bull (or bulla sacra). This memorable anniversary celebrates the date the Order’s founder, Blessed Gerard, secured for his community of brothers the much-desired ecclesiastical approval for the Hospital of St John (today the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta) from the then-reigning Pope Paschal II.
The Hospital of St. John had already been operating for over 50 years in the service of the pilgrims and the poor in Jerusalem when the papal bull was issued, but the rights granted by it have great historical significance. It transformed what was a community of pious men into an institution within the Church. By virtue of this document, the pope officially recognised the existence of the new organisation as a living, integral, operative and militant part of the Roman Catholic Church. It also granted it papal protection and confirmed its properties in Europe and Asia. This meant that the assets that the Hospital had amassed in order to sustain pilgrims and the poor who visited the hospital were protected. The bull also placed under Gerard’s authority various hospices in France and Italy, therefore expanding the Hospitaller activities.
Most importantly however, it gave the Hospital autonomy, and the foundation of the independence and sovereignty that the Order enjoys to this day. As a result of Pie postulation voluntatis, for 900 years, the Order has been able to serve the Church, and those in need, as an autonomous and sovereign lay religious order.
Today, the Order has diplomatic relations with 104 countries and missions to major European countries, as well as representation at major world organisations such as the United nations and the European Union. As the Order of Malta is neutral, impartial and non-political, it can successfully act as a mediator between States. However, the Order remains true to its Hospitaller tradition and is active in over 120 countries where it initiates and sustains projects designed to deliver emergency aid, health care training and education for those in greatest need.
The Order of Malta is also recognised as the oldest Order of Chivalry in the world, and the fourth oldest religious order in the Catholic Church.
To mark this memorable anniversary, Members of the Order from across the globe, including a group of 15 representatives from the Australian Association, will gather in Rome for an International Working Conference, culminating in a celebratory Papal Mass in the Vatican.
For all Australian Association news as it happens, including images from the anniversary celebrations, please continue to visit our website.