Pope Francis addresses the Sovereign Order of Malta at the conclusion of their General Chapter and encourages them to go forth in their mission after the election of new High Offices, whilst remaining always faithful to Christ.
By Francesca Merlo
Addressing members of the Order of Malta at the conclusion of their General Chapter, Pope Francis greeted the new High Officers and members of the Council, who had been elected at the meeting. “From here you resume with renewed impetus your commitment to tuitio fidei and obsequium pauperum [“defence of the faith and assistance to the poor”], giving freely what you have freely received and testifying that following Christ in the service of the poor and the sick is a path that fills the soul”, said the Pope.
The Pope expressed his pleasure in hearing that those who had been appointed to the provisional government had then “found the confidence of the great majority of the Chapter members”. With these, the Pope continued, you may now be “ever more united to bear witness to your faith and your belonging to the Order”
The issue of re-establishment
In the Chapter preceding the General Chapter, the Pope noted that in response to his invitation and to what was established in the Constitutional Charter and in the Melitense Code, “you addressed the issue of the re-establishment, according to the original inspiration, of community life and the full observance of the solemn vow of poverty”. The Pope expressed his appreciation for the decision to reopen a novitiate and added his hope that “more can be added soon”. To keep so many meritorious works alive, the Pope continued, “it is necessary to pray that the Lord will send “good labourers”, raising vocations in every class, especially to religious profession, which lives and expresses the Johannite vocation to the full.”
Pope Francis then went on to speak briefly of the terms that qualify the Order.
Beginning with the term “sovereign”, Pope Francis noted that “this is a very singular sovereignty, assumed over the centuries and confirmed by the will of the Popes. It allows you to make generous and demanding gestures of solidarity, making yourselves close to those most in need, under international diplomatic legal protection”.
Pope Francis then went on to speak of the word “military”. “For the defence of pilgrims and holy places, as well as Christianity, your Order has written glorious pages. Today, those deeds give way to interreligious dialogue. Moreover, faith in Christ and the following of Him commit you to the witness of the Gospel and the fight against everything that opposes it”, he explained.
Finally, the Pope spoke of the term “Hospitaller”.
“The Order originates from the service that Blessed Gerard offered to pilgrims in Jerusalem, in the Hospital named after St John the Baptist, who later became your Patron”, said the Pope. He noted that there, Gerard, with the first friars, welcomed pilgrims and the needy, providing them with the medical care they required, “and this can be seen today in the plurality of your works”, he added. “By caring for the sick, you know how to recognise in each of them the suffering face of Christ, whatever their origin, nationality or religious belief”, explained the Pope.
Bringing his address to a close, Pope Francis noted that the members present “have written a very important page of history for the Order of Malta”, and that for this, “you can be proud.”
Finally, Pope Francis exhorted all those present to remain faithful to Christ “and to go forward, carrying throughout the world His message of healing for the sick and consolation for the afflicted”.