The Order of Malta and the Holy See
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Diplomatic relations

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VATICAN CITY, OCT 13, 1997 (VIS) - This morning the Pope received the Letters of Credence of Stefan Falez, ambassador of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. This order, according to the Holy Father, has distinguished itself throughout the centuries "by its defense of the faith - often to the point of the supreme witness with blood - and charitable service."

"The defense of the faith is expressed today above all in the witness to Christian truths through word and deed. ... In this regard, I would like to entrust ideally to all the members of the Order of Malta the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'." To defend the faith, he added, means to defend values such as "the dignity of man, the nature of the family, the fundamental right to life."

John Paul II referred to the order's initiatives in the world: "They constitute, without a doubt, a valid service to the needy and an effective witness of Christ, the Good Samaritan of humanity. The Holy See supports these initiatives."

Lastly, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for what the Order of Malta has done and will do in the two centers of the Jubilee - Rome and Jerusalem - at the service of pilgrims.

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta, better known as "the Knights of Malta," was founded in 1099 during the Crusades by Blessed Gerard, as a hostelry for pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem. It was approved as an order in 1113 by Pope Paschal II, and was placed under the protection of the Holy See.

Faithful to its motto of defending Christianity and protecting the poor, the order currently provides humanitarian and social services in the Holy Land and in at least 100 other countries, as it has done throughout the centuries. With its see in Jerusalem until the end of the 13th century, the order moved to Rhodes in 1308, where it remained until 1522, when it was forced to flee. The Knights were given the island of Malta in 1530, where they stayed until the end of the 18th century. The order is distinct from the modern nation of the island of Malta.


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