Sovereign Military Order of Malta

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Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta

Sovrano Militare Ordine Ospedaliero di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme di Rodi e di Malta  (Italian)
Supremus Militaris Ordo Hospitalarius Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani Rhodiensis et Melitensis  (Latin)
Motto: Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum  (Latin)
"Defence of the faith and assistance to the poor"
Anthem:  Ave Crux Alba   (Latin)
Hail, thou White Cross
Capital Rome (Palazzo Malta 41°54′19″N12°28′50″E / 41.90528°N 12.48056°E / 41.90528; 12.48056 Coordinates: 41°54′19″N12°28′50″E / 41.90528°N 12.48056°E / 41.90528; 12.48056 and Villa del Priorato di Malta 41°53′01″N12°28′39″E / 41.88361°N 12.47750°E / 41.88361; 12.47750 )
Official languages Italian [1]
Religion
Catholicism
Government
  Prince and Grand Master
Vacant
Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas Boas
Albrecht von Boeselager
Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel
János Count Esterházy de Galántha
Sovereign subject of international law
 Establishment of the Knights Hospitaller
c.1099
1113
  Cyprus
1291–1310
  Rhodes
1310–1523
  Malta
1530–1798
 Sovereignty declared
1753
  Division
180512
1822
 Seat in Rome
1834present
Population
 Estimate
2 citizens [2]
13,500 members
80,000 volunteers
42,000 employees [note 1] [3]
Currency Maltese scudo a
  1. Euro for postage stamps.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), officially the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (Italian : Sovrano Militare Ordine Ospedaliero di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme di Rodi e di Malta; Latin : Supremus Militaris Ordo Hospitalarius Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani Rhodiensis et Melitensis), commonly known as the Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalric and noble nature. [4] The order has been called "the smallest sovereign state in the world". [5]

Contents

SMOM claims continuity with the Knights Hospitaller, a chivalric order that was founded c.1099 by the Blessed Gerard in medieval Jerusalem. [6] In terms of international law, it is an establishment of the 19th century, recognized at the Congress of Verona of 1822, and since 1834 headquartered in Palazzo Malta in Rome. The order is led by an elected Prince and Grand Master. [7] Its motto is Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum ('defence of the faith and assistance to the poor'). The order venerates the Virgin Mary as its patroness, under the title of Our Lady of Mount Philermos.

Name and insignia

Coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (variant).svg
Coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

The order has a large number of local priories and associations around the world, but there also exist a number of organizations with similar-sounding names that are unrelated, including numerous fraudulent (self-styled) orders seeking to capitalize on the name. [8]

In the ecclesiastical heraldry of the Catholic Church, the Order of Malta is one of only two orders (along with the Order of the Holy Sepulchre) whose insignia may be displayed in a clerical coat of arms. (Laypersons have no such restriction.) The shield is surrounded with a silver rosary for professed knights, or for others the ribbon of their rank. Some members may also display the Maltese cross behind their shield instead of the ribbon. [9]

In order to protect its heritage against fraud, the order has legally registered 16 versions of its names and emblems in some 100 countries. [10]

Early history

Founding

Gerard Thom, founder of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Copper engraving by Laurent Cars, c. 1725. Gravure de Fra Gerard fondateur des Hospitaliers de Saint-Jean.jpg
Gerard Thom, founder of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Copper engraving by Laurent Cars, c. 1725.

The birth of the order dates back to around 1048. Merchants from the ancient Marine Republic of Amalfi obtained from the Caliph of Egypt the authorisation to build a church, convent, and hospital in Jerusalem, to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. The Order of St. John of Jerusalem – the monastic community that ran the hospital for the pilgrims in the Holy Land – became independent under the guidance of its founder, the religious brother Gerard.

With the Papal bull Pie postulatio voluntatis dated 15 February 1113, Pope Paschal II approved the foundation of the Hospital and placed it under the aegis of the Holy See, granting it the right to freely elect its superiors without interference from other secular or religious authorities. By virtue of the Papal Bull, the hospital became an order exempt from the control of the local church. All the Knights were religious, bound by the three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The constitution of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Crusades obliged the order to take on the military defence of the sick, the pilgrims, and the captured territories. The order thus added the task of defending the faith to that of its hospitaller mission.

As time went on, the order adopted the white, eight-pointed Cross that is still its symbol today. The eight points represent the eight "beatitudes" that Jesus pronounced in his Sermon on the Mount.

Cyprus

When the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land fell after the Siege of Acre in 1291, the order settled first in Cyprus.

Rhodes

In 1310, led by Grand Master Fra' Foulques de Villaret, the knights regrouped on the island of Rhodes. From there, the defense of the Christian world required the organization of a naval force; so the Order built a powerful fleet and sailed the eastern Mediterranean, fighting battles for the sake of Christendom, including Crusades in Syria and Egypt.

In the early 14th century, the institutions of the Order and the knights who came to Rhodes from every corner of Europe were grouped according to the languages they spoke. The first seven such groups, or Langues (Tongues) – from Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon (Navarre), England (with Scotland and Ireland), and Germany – became eight in 1492, when Castile and Portugal were separated from the Langue of Aragon. Each Langue included Priories or Grand Priories, Bailiwicks, and Commanderies.

The Order was governed by its Grand Master, the Prince of Rhodes, and its Council. From its beginning, independence from other nations granted by pontifical charter and the universally recognised right to maintain and deploy armed forces constituted grounds for the international sovereignty of the Order, which minted its own coins and maintained diplomatic relations with other states. The senior positions of the Order were given to representatives of different Langues.

In 1523, after six months of siege and fierce combat against the fleet and army of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the Knights were forced to surrender, and left Rhodes with military honours.

Later history

Summary

The headquarters of the Order of Saint John was located in Malta from 1530 until 1798. It was technically a vassal of the Kingdom of Sicily, holding Malta in exchange for a nominal fee, but declared independence in 1753.

It was expelled from Malta under the French occupation in 1798 and, from 1805 to 1812, many of its possessions in Protestant Europe were confiscated, resulting in the fragmentation of the order into a number of Protestant branches, since 1961 united under the umbrella of the Alliance of the Orders of Saint John of Jerusalem. The Congress of Vienna of 1815 confirmed the loss of Malta, but the Congress of Verona in 1822 guaranteed the continued existence of the Catholic order as a sovereign entity. The seat of the order was moved to Ferrara in 1826 and to Rome in 1834, the interior of Palazzo Malta being considered extraterritorial sovereign territory of the order. The grand priories of Lombardy-Venetia and of Sicily were restored from 1839 to 1841. The office of Grand Master was restored by Pope Leo XIII in 1879, after a vacancy of 75 years, confirming Giovanni Battista Ceschi a Santa Croce as the first Grand Master of the restored Order of Malta.

The Holy See was established as a subject of international law in the Lateran Treaty of 1929. In the following decades, the connection between the Holy See and the Order of Malta was seen as so close as to call into question the actual sovereignty of the order as a separate entity. This has prompted constitutional changes on the part of the Order, which were implemented in 1997. Since then, the Order has been widely recognized as a sovereign subject of international law in its own right. [11]

It maintains diplomatic relations with 110 states, has permanent observer status at the United Nations, [12] [13] enters into treaties and issues its own passports, coins and postage stamps. Its two headquarters buildings in Rome enjoy extraterritoriality, similar to embassies, and it maintains embassies in other countries. The three principal officers are counted as citizens.

The Order has 13,500 Knights, Dames and auxiliary members. A few dozen of these are professed religious. Until the 1990s, the highest classes of membership, including officers, required proof of noble lineage. More recently, a path was created for Knights and Dames of the lowest class (of whom proof of aristocratic lineage is not required) to be specially elevated to the highest class, making them eligible for office in the order.

The order employs about 42,000 doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics assisted by 80,000 volunteers in more than 120 countries, [note 1] assisting children, homeless, handicapped, elderly, and terminally ill people, refugees, and lepers around the world without distinction of ethnicity or religion. [note 1] Through its worldwide relief corps, Malteser International, the order aids victims of natural disasters, epidemics and war. In several countries, including France, Germany and Ireland, local associations of the order are important providers of medical emergency services and training. Its annual budget is on the order of 1.5 billion euros, largely funded by European governments, the United Nations and the European Union, foundations and public donors.

Malta

Bust portrait of a Knight of Malta Bust portrait of a knight of Malta cropped.jpg
Bust portrait of a Knight of Malta

The order remained without a territory of its own until 1530, when Grand Master Fra' Philippe de Villiers de l'Isle Adam took possession of the island of Malta, granted to the order by Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and his mother Queen Joanna of Castile as monarchs of Sicily, with the approval of Pope Clement VII, for which the order had to honour the conditions of the Tribute of the Maltese Falcon.

Protestant Reformation

The Reformation which split Western Europe into Protestant and Catholic states affected the knights as well. In several countries, including England, Scotland and Sweden, the order was dissolved. In others, including the Netherlands and Germany, entire bailiwicks or commanderies (administrative divisions of the order) experienced religious conversions; these "Johanniter orders" survive in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden and many other countries, including the United States and South Africa. It was established that the order should remain neutral in any war between Christian nations.[ citation needed ]

Colonies in the Caribbean

Map of the colonies of the order in the Caribbean during the 17th century Hospitaller colonization.png
Map of the colonies of the order in the Caribbean during the 17th century

From 1651 to 1665, the Order of Saint John ruled four islands in the Caribbean. On 21 May 1651 it acquired the islands of Saint Barthélemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Croix and Saint Martin. These were purchased from the French Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique which had just been dissolved. In 1665, the four islands were sold to the French West India Company.

Great siege of Malta

In 1565, the Knights, led by Grand Master Fra' Jean de Vallette (after whom the capital of Malta, Valletta, was named), defended the island for more than three months during the Great Siege by the Turks.

Battle of Lepanto

The Battle of Lepanto (1571), unknown artist, late 16th century Battle of Lepanto 1571.jpg
The Battle of Lepanto (1571), unknown artist, late 16th century

The fleet of the order contributed to the ultimate destruction of the Ottoman naval power in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, led by John of Austria, half brother of King Philip II of Spain.

French occupation of Malta

Emperor Paul wearing the Crown of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta (1799). Emperor Paul in the Crown of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta.jpeg
Emperor Paul wearing the Crown of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta (1799).

Their Mediterranean stronghold of Malta was captured by the French First Republic under Napoleon in 1798 during his expedition to Egypt, following the French Revolution and the subsequent French Revolutionary Wars. Napoleon demanded from Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim that his ships be allowed to enter the port and to take on water and supplies. The Grand Master replied that only two foreign ships could be allowed to enter the port at a time. Bonaparte, aware that such a procedure would take a very long time and would leave his forces vulnerable to Admiral Nelson, immediately ordered a cannon fusillade against Malta. [14] The French soldiers disembarked in Malta at seven points on the morning of 11 June and attacked. After several hours of fierce fighting, the Maltese in the west were forced to surrender. [15]

Napoleon opened negotiations with the fortress capital of Valletta. Faced with vastly superior French forces and the loss of western Malta, the Grand Master negotiated a surrender to the invasion. [16] Hompesch left Malta for Trieste on 18 June. [17] He resigned as Grand Master on 6 July 1799.

The knights were dispersed, though the order continued to exist in a diminished form and negotiated with European governments for a return to power. The Russian Emperor, Paul I, gave the largest number of knights shelter in Saint Petersburg, an action which gave rise to the Russian tradition of the Knights Hospitaller and the Order's recognition among the Russian Imperial Orders. [18] The refugee knights in Saint Petersburg proceeded to elect Tsar Paul as their Grand Master – a rival to Grand Master von Hompesch until the latter's abdication left Paul as the sole Grand Master. Grand Master Paul I created, in addition to the Roman Catholic Grand Priory, a "Russian Grand Priory" of no fewer than 118 Commanderies, dwarfing the rest of the Order and open to all Christians. Paul's election as Grand Master was, however, never ratified under Roman Catholic canon law, and he was the de facto rather than de jure Grand Master of the Order.

By the early 19th century, the order had been severely weakened by the loss of its priories throughout Europe. Only 10% of the order's income came from traditional sources in Europe, with the remaining 90% being generated by the Russian Grand Priory until 1810. This was partly reflected in the government of the Order being under Lieutenants, rather than Grand Masters, in the period 1805 to 1879, when Pope Leo XIII restored a Grand Master to the order. This signaled the renewal of the order's fortunes as a humanitarian and religious organization.

On 19 September 1806, the Swedish government offered the sovereignty of the island of Gotland to the Order. The offer was rejected since it would have meant the Order renouncing their claim to Malta. [19]

Exile

The French forces occupying Malta expelled the knights from their country. [20]

The Treaty of Amiens (1802) obliged the United Kingdom to evacuate Malta which was to be restored to a recreated Order of St. John, whose sovereignty was to be guaranteed by all of the major European powers, to be determined at the final peace. However, this was not to be because objections to the treaty quickly grew in the UK.

Bonaparte's rejection of a British offer involving a ten-year lease of Malta prompted the reactivation of the British blockade of the French coast; Britain declared war on France on 18 May. [21]

The 1802 treaty was never implemented. The UK gave its official reasons for resuming hostilities as France's imperialist policies in the West Indies, Italy, and Switzerland. [22]

Rome

Palazzo Malta, Rome, Italy Palazzo di Malta (Roma).jpg
Palazzo Malta, Rome, Italy

After having temporarily resided in Messina, Catania, and Ferrara, in 1834 the precursor of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta settled definitively in Rome, where it owns, with extraterritorial status, the Magistral Palace in Via Condotti 68 and the Magistral Villa on the Aventine Hill.

The original hospitaller mission became the main activity of the order, growing ever stronger during the 20th century, most especially because of the contribution of the activities carried out by the Grand Priories and National Associations in many countries around the world. Large-scale hospitaller and charitable activities were carried out during World Wars I and II under Grand Master Fra' Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere (1931–1951). Under the Grand Masters Fra' Angelo de Mojana di Cologna (1962–88) and Fra' Andrew Bertie (1988–2008), the projects expanded.

Relations with the Republic of Malta

Flags of Malta and the SMOM on Fort St Angelo St-Angelo-Malta.jpg
Flags of Malta and the SMOM on Fort St Angelo

Two bilateral treaties were concluded with the Republic of Malta. The first treaty is dated 21 June 1991 and is now no longer in force. [23] The second treaty was signed on 5 December 1998 and ratified on 1 November 2001. [24]

This agreement grants the Order the use with limited extraterritoriality of the upper portion of Fort St. Angelo in the city of Birgu. Its stated purpose is "to give the Order the opportunity to be better enabled to carry out its humanitarian activities as Knights Hospitallers from Saint Angelo, as well as to better define the legal status of Saint Angelo subject to the sovereignty of Malta over it". [25]

The agreement has a duration of 99 years, but the document allows the Maltese Government to terminate it at any time after 50 years. [26] Under the terms of the agreement, the flag of Malta is to be flown together with the flag of the Order in a prominent position over Saint Angelo. No asylum may be granted by the Order and generally the Maltese courts have full jurisdiction and Maltese law shall apply. The second bilateral treaty mentions a number of immunities and privileges, none of which appeared in the earlier treaty. [23] [24]

2010s

In February 2013, the order celebrated the 900th anniversary of its papal recognition with a general audience with Pope Benedict XVI and a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in Saint Peter's Basilica. [27]

Crisis and constitutional reform

The Order experienced a leadership crisis beginning in December 2016, when Albrecht von Boeselager protested his removal as Grand Chancellor by Grand Master Matthew Festing. In January 2017 Pope Francis ordered von Boeselager reinstated and required Festing's resignation. [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] Francis also named Archbishop Giovanni Becciu [33] as his personal representative to the Order – sidelining the Order's Cardinal Patron Raymond Burke – until the election of a new Grand Master. [34] [35] [36]

The Pope effectively taking control over the order was seen by some as a break with tradition and the independence of the order. [37] In May 2017, the Order named Mauro Bertero Gutiérrez, a Bolivian member of the Government Council, to lead its constitutional reform process. [38] [39] [40] And in May 2018 when a new Grand Master was elected, Francis extended Becciu's mandate indefinitely. [41] [42] In June 2017, in a departure from tradition, the leadership of the Order wore informal attire rather than formal wear full dress uniforms to their annual papal audience. [43] When the Order's General Chapter met in May 2019, as it does every five years, the participants included women for the first time, three of the 62 participants. [44]

Organisation

Fra' Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, 80th Prince and Grand Master FraGiacomoDallaTorre.jpg
Fra' Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, 80th Prince and Grand Master
Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta
Coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.svg
Coat of arms of the order
Awarded by Prince and Grand Master Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto
Type Sovereign order of chivalry
Established1099
CountryFlag of the Order of St. John (various).svg  Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Religious affiliation Catholic Church
Ribbon     Black
MottoTuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum
Prince and Grand Master Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto
ClassesThree
Post-nominalsSMOM
Statistics
Total inducteesCirca 13,500
Precedence
Next (higher) Order of the Holy Sepulchre
Next (lower) Teutonic Order
SMOM.svg
Ribbon bar

Governance

The proceedings of the Order are governed by its Constitutional Charter and the Order's Code. It is divided internationally into six territorial Grand Priories, six Sub-Priories and 47 national associations.

The six Grand Priories are:

The supreme head of the Order is the Prince and Grand Master, who is elected for life by the Council Complete of State, holds the precedence of a cardinal of the Church since 1630 and received the rank of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1607. [46] [47] Fra' Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto was elected 80th Grand Master on 2 May 2018, a year after Fra' Matthew Festing resigned as Grand Master at the insistence of Pope Francis. [48]

Electors in the Council Complete of State include the members of the Sovereign Council, other office-holders and representatives of the members of the Order. The Grand Master is aided by the Sovereign Council (the government of the Order), which is elected by the Chapter General, the legislative body of the Order.

The Chapter General meets every five years; at each meeting, all seats of the Sovereign Council are up for election. The Sovereign Council includes six members and four High Officers: the Grand Commander, the Grand Chancellor, the Grand Hospitaller [49] and the Receiver of the Common Treasure. [50]

The Grand Commander is the chief religious officer of the Order and serves as Lieutenant "ad interim" during a vacancy in the office of Grand Master. The Grand Chancellor, whose office includes those of the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the head of the executive branch; he is responsible for the Diplomatic Missions of the Order and relations with the national Associations. The Grand Hospitaller's responsibilities include the offices of Minister for Humanitarian Action and Minister for International Cooperation; he coordinates the Order's humanitarian and charitable activities. Finally, the Receiver of the Common Treasure is the Minister of Finance and Budget; he directs the administration of the finances and property of the Order.

Patrons of the order since 1961

Cardinal Raymond Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta since 2014 Raymond Cardinal Burke with Biretta.jpg
Cardinal Raymond Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta since 2014

The patron, who is either a cardinal when appointed by the pope or soon raised to that rank, [51] promotes the spiritual interests of the Order and its members, and its relations with the Holy See.

  1. Paolo Giobbe (8 August 1961 – 3 July 1969) [52]
  2. Giacomo Violardo (3 July 1969 – 17 March 1978) [53]
  3. Paul-Pierre Philippe, O.P. (10 November 1978 – 9 April 1984) [54]
  4. Sebastiano Baggio (26 May 1984 – 21 March 1993) [55]
  5. Pio Laghi (8 May 1993 – 11 January 2009) [56]
  6. Paolo Sardi (6 June 2009 – 8 November 2014) [57]
  7. Raymond Burke (8 November 2014 – present) [58]

Prelate of the order

The pope appoints the prelate of the order to supervise the clergy of the order, choosing from among three candidates proposed by the Grand Master. On 4 July 2015 Pope Francis named as prelate Bishop Jean Laffitte, who had held various offices in the Roman Curia for more than a decade. Laffitte succeeded Archbishop Angelo Acerbi, who had held the office since 2001. Laffitte's appointment followed the traditional meeting between the pope and the Grand Master, and an audience with the Grand Chancellor and others as well, held on 24 June, the feast of St. John the Baptist. [59]

Membership

A Knight of Grace and Devotion in contemporary church robes Knight of Malta XXI century.JPG
A Knight of Grace and Devotion in contemporary church robes

Membership in the order is divided into three classes each of which is subdivided into several categories: [60]

Within each class and category of knights are ranks ranging from bailiff grand cross (the highest) through knight grand cross, and knight – thus one could be a "knight of grace and devotion," or a "bailiff grand cross of justice." The final rank of donat is offered to some who join the order in the class of "justice" but who are not knights. Bishops and priests are generally honorary members, or knights, of the Order of Malta. However, there are some priests who are full members of the Order, and this is usually because they were conferred knighthood prior to ordination. The priests of the Order of Malta are ranked as Honorary Canons, as in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre; and they are entitled to wear the black mozetta with purple piping and purple fascia.

Prior to the 1990s, all officers of the Order had to be of noble birth (i.e., armigerous for at least a hundred years), as they were all knights of justice or of obedience. However, Knights of Magistral Grace (i.e., those without noble proofs) now may make the Promise of Obedience and, at the discretion of the Grand Master and Sovereign Council, may enter the novitiate to become professed Knights of Justice.[ citation needed ]

Worldwide, there are over 13,000 knights and dames, of whom approximately 55 are professed religious. [62] Membership in the Order is by invitation only and solicitations are not entertained.

The Order's finances are audited by a Board of Auditors, which includes a President and four Councillors, all elected by the Chapter General. The Order's judicial powers are exercised by a group of Magistral Courts, whose judges are appointed by the Grand Master and Sovereign Council.

Relationship with other mutually-recognised Orders of Saint John

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta has collaborated with other mutually-recognized Orders of Saint John; for example, the SMOM is a major donor of the St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, which is primarily operated by the Venerable Order of Saint John. [63]

International status

Foreign relations with the SMOM:
Diplomatic relations
Other official relations
Former diplomatic relations SMOM foreign relations.png
Foreign relations with the SMOM:
  Diplomatic relations
  Other official relations
  Former diplomatic relations
Coat of arms of the Knights of Malta from the facade of the church of San Giovannino dei Cavalieri, Florence, Italy San Giovannino dei Cavalieri stemma Cavalieri di Malta.JPG
Coat of arms of the Knights of Malta from the façade of the church of San Giovannino dei Cavalieri, Florence, Italy

Vehicle registration plate of the Order, as seen in Rome, Italy Sovereign Military Order of Malta license plate.jpg
Vehicle registration plate of the Order, as seen in Rome, Italy
Flags of Knights Hospitaller in Saint Peter's Castle, Bodrum, Turkey.
Left to right: Fabrizio Carretto (1513-1514);
Amaury d'Amboise (1503-1512);
Pierre d'Aubusson (1476-1503);
Jacques de Milly (1454-1451). Turkey.Bodrum082.jpg
Flags of Knights Hospitaller in Saint Peter's Castle, Bodrum, Turkey.
Left to right: Fabrizio Carretto (1513–1514);
Amaury d'Amboise (1503–1512);
Pierre d'Aubusson (1476–1503);
Jacques de Milly (1454–1451).

SMOM has formal diplomatic relations with 110 states and has official relations with another five states and with the European Union. [12] Additionally it has relations with the International Committee of the Red Cross and a number of international organizations, including observer status at the UN and some of the specialized agencies. [64] Its international nature is useful in enabling it to pursue its humanitarian activities without being seen as an operative of any particular nation. Its sovereignty is also expressed in the issuance of passports, licence plates, [65] stamps, [66] and coins. [67]

With its unique history and unusual present circumstances, the exact status of the Order in international law has been the subject of debate. It describes itself as a "sovereign subject of international law." Its two headquarters in Rome – the Palazzo Malta in Via dei Condotti 68, where the Grand Master resides and Government Bodies meet, and the Villa del Priorato di Malta on the Aventine, which hosts the Grand Priory of Rome – Fort St. Angelo on the island of Malta, the Embassy of the Order to Holy See, and the Embassy of the Order to Italy have all been granted extraterritoriality by Italy and Malta. [68]

Unlike the Holy See, however, which is sovereign over Vatican City and thus has clear territorial separation of its sovereign area and that of Italy, SMOM has had no territory since the loss of the island of Malta in 1798, other than only those current properties with extraterritoriality listed above. Italy recognizes, in addition to extraterritoriality, the exercise by SMOM of all the prerogatives of sovereignty in its headquarters. Therefore, Italian sovereignty and SMOM sovereignty uniquely coexist without overlapping. [69] The United Nations does not classify it as a "non-member state" or "intergovernmental organization" but as one of the "other entities having received a standing invitation to participate as observers." [70] For instance, while the International Telecommunication Union has granted radio identification prefixes to such quasi-sovereign jurisdictions as the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority, SMOM has never received one. For awards purposes, amateur radio operators consider SMOM to be a separate "entity", but stations transmitting from there use an entirely unofficial callsign, starting with the prefix "1A". [71] Likewise, for internet and telecommunications identification, the SMOM has neither sought nor been granted a top-level domain or international dialling code, whereas the Vatican City uses its own domain (.va), [72] and has been allocated the country code +379. [73]

There are differing opinions as to whether a claim to sovereign status has been recognized. Ian Brownlie, Helmut Steinberger, and Wilhelm Wengler are among experts who say that the claim has not been recognized. Even taking into account the Order's ambassadorial diplomatic status among many nations, a claim to sovereign status is sometimes rejected. [74] The Order maintains diplomatic missions around the world and many of the states reciprocate by accrediting ambassadors to the Order (usually their ambassador to the Holy See).

Wengler – a German professor of international law – addresses this point in his book Völkerrecht (1964), and rejects the notion that recognition of the Order by some states can make it a subject of international law. Conversely, professor Rebecca Wallace – writing more recently in her book International Law (1986) – explains that a sovereign entity does not have to be a country, and that SMOM is an example of this. [75] This position appears to be supported by the number of nations extending diplomatic relations to the Order, which more than doubled from 49 to 100 in the 20-year period to 2008. [76] In 1953, the Holy See decreed that the Order of Malta's quality as a sovereign institution is functional, to ensure the achievement of its purposes in the world, and that as a subject of international law, it enjoys certain powers, but not the entire set of powers of sovereignty "in the full sense of the word." [77] On 24 June 1961, Pope John XXIII approved the Constitutional Charter, which contains the most solemn reaffirmations of the sovereignty of the Order. Article 1 affirms that "the Order is a legal entity formally approved by the Holy See. It has the quality of a subject of international law." Article 3 states that "the intimate connection existing between the two qualities of a religious order and a sovereign order do not oppose the autonomy of the order in the exercise of its sovereignty and prerogatives inherent to it as a subject of international law in relation to States." [69]

Currency and postage stamps

The SMOM coins are appreciated more for their subject matter than for their use as currency; SMOM postage stamps, however, have been gaining acceptance among Universal Postal Union member nations.

The SMOM began issuing euro-denominated postage stamps in 2005, although the scudo remains the official currency of the SMOM. Also in 2005, the Italian post agreed with the SMOM to deliver internationally most classes of mail other than registered, insured, and special-delivery mail; additionally 56 countries recognize SMOM stamps for franking purposes, including those such as Canada and Mongolia that lack diplomatic relations with the Order. [78]

Military Corps

Logotype of the Military Corps of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Cross Hospitelier.svg
Logotype of the Military Corps of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Military Corps of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, ACISMOM, in parade during Festa della Repubblica in Rome (2007) 2june 2007 489.jpg
Military Corps of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, ACISMOM, in parade during Festa della Repubblica in Rome (2007)

The Order states that it was the hospitaller role that enabled the Order to survive the end of the crusading era; nonetheless, it retains its military title and traditions.

On 26 March 1876, the Association of the Italian Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (Associazione dei cavalieri italiani del sovrano militare ordine di Malta, ACISMOM) reformed the Order's military to a modern military unit of the era. This unit provided medical support to the Italian Army and on 9 April 1909 the military corps officially became a special auxiliary volunteer corps of the Italian Army under the name Corpo Militare dell'Esercito dell'ACISMOM (Army Military Corps of the ACISMOM), wearing Italian uniforms. [79] Since then the Military Corps have operated with the Italian Army both in wartime and peacetime in medical or paramedical military functions, and in ceremonial functions for the Order, such as standing guard around the coffins of high officers of the Order before and during funeral rites. [80]

I believe that it is a unique case in the world that a unit of the army of one country is supervised by a body of another sovereign country. Just think that whenever our staff (medical officers mainly) is engaged in a military mission abroad, there is the flag of the Order flying below the Italian flag.

Fausto Solaro del Borgo, President of the Italian Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, stated in a speech given in London in November 2007. [79]

Air force

Roundel of the air force of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Roundel of SMOM.svg
Roundel of the air force of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
SMOM Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 at the Italian Air Force Museum Vigna di Valle 20110812 -- Savoia-Marchetti S.M.82 vista dall'alto.jpg
SMOM Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 at the Italian Air Force Museum

In 1947, after the post-World War II peace treaty forbade Italy to own or operate bomber aircraft and only operate a limited number of transport aircraft, the Italian Air Force opted to transfer some of its Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 aircraft to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, pending the definition of their exact status (the SM.82 were properly long range transport aircraft that could be adapted for bombing missions). These aircraft were operated by Italian Air Force personnel temporarily flying for the Order, carried the Order's roundels on the fuselage and Italian ones on the wings, and were used mainly for standard Italian Air Force training and transport missions but also for some humanitarian tasks proper of the Order of Malta (like the transport of sick pilgrims to the Lourdes sanctuary). In the early '50s, when the strictures of the peace treaty had been much relaxed by the Allied authorities, the aircraft returned under full control of the Italian Air Force. One of the aircraft transferred to the Order of Malta, still with the Order's fuselage roundels, is preserved in the Italian Air Force Museum. [81]

Logistics

The Military Corps has become known in mainland Europe for its operation of hospital trains, [82] a service which was carried out intensively during both World Wars. The Military Corps still operates a modern 28-car hospital train with 192 hospital beds, serviced by a medical staff of 38 medics and paramedics provided by the Order and a technical staff provided by the Italian Army's Railway Engineer Regiment. [83]

Orders, decorations, and medals

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 The order's website says "its programmes include medical and social assistance, disaster relief in the case of armed conflicts and natural catastrophes, emergency services and first aid corps, help for the elderly, the handicapped and children in need and the provision of first aid training, and support for refugees and internally displaced persons regardless of race, origin or religion."

Related Research Articles

The Russian tradition of the Knights Hospitaller is a collection of charitable organisations claiming continuity with the Russian Orthodox grand priory of the Order of Saint John. Their distinction emerged when the Mediterranean stronghold of Malta was captured by Napoleon in 1798 when he made his expedition to Egypt. As a ruse, Napoleon asked for safe harbor to resupply his ships, and then turned against his hosts once safely inside Valletta. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch failed to anticipate or prepare for this threat, provided no effective leadership, and readily capitulated to Napoleon. This was a terrible affront to most of the Knights desiring to defend their stronghold and sovereignty. The Order continued to exist in a diminished form and negotiated with European governments for a return to power. The Emperor of Russia gave the largest number of Knights shelter in St Petersburg and this gave rise to the Russian tradition of the Knights Hospitaller and recognition within the Russian Imperial Orders. In gratitude the Knights declared Ferdinand von Hompesch deposed and Emperor Paul I was elected as the new Grand Master. The continuous Order was also approved by the Papacy, but due to British fear of Russian taking presence in the Mediterranean and because many knights were Orthodox the Order became de facto the traditional Order but de jure not recognised similar or at par with the formation of the 19th-century Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM).

Andrew Bertie Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta

Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 1988 until his death in 2008.

European microstates European sovereign states having very small population or very small land area

The European microstates or European ministates are a set of very small sovereign states in Europe. The term is typically used to refer to the six smallest states in Europe by area: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City. Four of these states are monarchies. These states trace their status back to the first millennium or the early second millennium except for Liechtenstein, created in the 17th century.

Knights Hospitaller Medieval and early modern Catholic military order

The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller, the Knights of Malta, or the Order of Saint John, was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem until 1291, on the island of Rhodes from 1310 until 1522, in Malta from 1530 until 1798 and at Saint Petersburg from 1799 until 1801. Today several organizations continue the Hospitaller tradition, most importantly the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Foreign relations of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a sovereign entity maintaining diplomatic relations with 110 sovereign states, the European Union, the Holy See, and the State of Palestine. Additionally, it has observer status or representation at multiple intergovernmental organisations. The Order exchanges ambassadors with the European Union and the State of Palestine, and has non-diplomatic official relations with five more states: France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Canada.

Palazzo Malta headquarter of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (Rome, Italy)

Palazzo Malta, officially named as the Magistral Palace, and also known as Palazzo di Malta or Palazzo dell'Ordine di Malta, is the more important of the two headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic lay religious order and a sovereign subject of international law. It is located in Via dei Condotti, 68 in Rome, Italy, a few minutes' walk from the Spanish Steps, and has been granted extraterritoriality by the Italian Government. The Palace has been a property of the Order of Malta since 1630.

Villa del Priorato di Malta building in Rome, Italy

Villa del Priorato di Malta or Magistral Villa, located on the Aventine Hill in Rome, is one of the two institutional seats of the government of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Along with Magistral Palace, the estate is granted extraterritorial status by Italy. It also hosts the Grand Priory of Rome and the embassy of the Sovereign Order of Malta to Italy.

Matthew Festing Prince & Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Robert Matthew Festing served as Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 2008 until his resignation following a dispute with the Vatican on 28 January 2017.

Mariano Hugo, Prince of Windisch-Graetz Ambassador of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Mariano Hugo, Prince of Windisch-Graetz is the current head of the Austrian or Italian House of Windisch-Graetz. A former ambassador of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) to the Slovak Republic, he is currently SMOM's ambassador to Slovenia.

Jean-Pierre Mazery French economist

Jean-Pierre Mazery is a French economist and was the Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) from 2005 - 2014.

Postage stamps and postal history of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Gherardo Hercolani Fava Simonetti Grand Commander of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Fra' Gherardo Hercolani Fava Simonetti was the Grand Commander of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta between 2009 and 2011, and as such he was the religious superior of the professed knights and of the knights and dames in obedience.

Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Fra' Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto was the 80th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Born in Rome to a noble family with extensive ties to the Vatican, he completed his studies at the Sapienza University of Rome and taught at the Pontifical Urban University. He joined the Order in 1985 and took full vows in 1993 to become a Knight of Justice. Dalla Torre served two separate stints as interim leader of the Order, from February to March 2008 and again from 2017 until 2018. He was elected Prince and Grand Master of the Order on 2 May 2018. During his time in office, he endeavoured to repair the Order's relations with the Vatican. These had become strained when his predecessor was controversially forced out by the Pope. Dalla Torre's three-year-long incumbency came to an end when he died of throat cancer in 2020.

Passage fee donation given by a newly dubbed knight

Passage fee is a donation given by a newly dubbed knight in celebration of his investiture into the knighthood. During the Crusades, passage fees, known as droit de passage, were used to cover the cost of travel to the Holy Land. The passage fee is still present in some modern chivalric orders, such as the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. In the medieval era, the passage fee for the Knights Hospitaller was around 360 Spanish pistoles. The large passage fee of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which was rumoured to be $50,000.00 USD in the 1950s, may have led to the creation of self-styled orders, such as the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Oecumenical Knights of Malta, that mimic the genuine chivalric order of knights.

Orders, decorations, and medals of the Holy See Papal Orders and decoration of merit of the Holy See

The orders, decorations, and medals of the Holy See include titles, chivalric orders, distinctions and medals honoured by the Holy See, with the Pope as the fount of honour, for deeds and merits of their recipients to the benefit of the Holy See, the Catholic Church, or their respective communities, societies, nations and the world at large.

Order of Saint Lazarus (statuted 1910) organization

The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem is a Christian ecumenical fraternal order statuted in 1910 by a council of Catholics in Paris, France, initially under the protection of Patriarch Cyril VIII Jaha of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. In the 1920s it expanded its jurisdiction enrolling members from other countries in Europe and in the Americas. It re-established the office of grand master in 1935 linking the office to members of the Spanish royal family. It assumed an ecumenical dimension in the 1960s to expand its membership to individuals of other Christian denominations in British Commonwealth countries.

The following is a comprehensive list of orders, decorations, and medals bestowed by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, both in the present-day and historically.

Flag and coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

The flag and coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta display a white cross on a red field, ultimately derived from the design worn by the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades.

<i>Pie postulatio voluntatis</i> Recognized the establishment of the Knights Hospitaller

Pie postulatio voluntatis is a papal bull issued on 15 February 1113 by Pope Paschal II, in which the Pope formally recognized the establishment of the Knights Hospitaller and confirmed its independence and sovereignty. Today, the document is preserved at the National Library of Malta in Valletta, Malta.

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