The Southern Cross : June 2012
The Order dates back to 1048 when merchants from the ancient Republic of Amalfi in Italy built a Church, convent and hospice in Jerusalem to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem formed the monastic community that ran the Hospice were approved by Pope Paschal II as a lay Order of the Catholic Church in 1113 and were the forerunners of the present day Knights of the Order of Malta. As the centuries have passed, the Order of Malta has evolved. Today it operates in more than 120 countries and is a Sovereign Entity in International Law with full diplomatic accreditation with over 100 countries, including Permanent Observer status with the United Nations. However despite this evolution it still remains true to its original principles, summarised in its dual mission "Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum" -- Defence of the Faith and Service to the Poor and the Suffering. These become a reality through the voluntary work of the Dames and Knights in humanitarian assistance, and medical and social activities. The activities of the Order's organisations worldwide rely on the involvement of its 13,000 members, approximately 80,000 trained volunteers and 20,000 employees (the majority of whom are medical personnel). Together they manage permanent institutions -- such as hospitals, outpatient medical centres and hospices -- together with socio-medical and humanitarian programs. The Australian Association of the Order of Malta was established in 1973 and since that time has undertaken projects across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. In Australia there are 242 Knights and Dames who are committed to serving the sick, the poor and those in need. The Order's projects in Australia include a national program to clothe the homeless, Palliative Care, Drug and Alcohol Detox support and Queensland flood disaster relief. The Australian Association has also committed to helping the country's closest neighbour, Timor-Leste. "There are few other organisations in such a strong position to initiate change for the most vulnerable people in the world," said Dr Ian Marshall, the National Hospitaller. "We speak for the least, the last and the lost." The Order of Malta: timeline of its early history 1048: The Crusaders built a Church, convent and hospital in Jerusalem to defend and care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race in the Holy Land. 1113: The Order of St John of Jerusalem is established under Blessed Fra Gerard by Pope Paschal II. 1291: The Order goes to Cyprus, and later Rhodes, following the fall of the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land. 1523: The Knights are again forced to leave, and settle in Malta where they gain their name. 1798: After defending European Christendom with their mighty naval fleet for more than 250 years, Napoleon Bonaparte occupies the island and forces the Knights to leave, due to their decision to remain neutral in any war between Christian nations. 1834: The Order takes up headquarters in the Magistral Palace in Via Condotti in Rome and is governed by the Prince and Grand Master, assisted by the Sovereign Council. 900 years of service to the sick and poor The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, better known as the Order of Malta, is one of the oldest institutions of Western Christian civilisation. Its 13,000 members worldwide, include Knights and Dames in South Australia, are committed to serving the poor, the needy and the sick. This is their story. Order of Malta Grand Master Matthew Festing with Pope Benedict XVI. The Order of Malta has more than 80,000 volunteers around the world. St John the Baptist is the patron saint of the Order of Malta. Order of Malta Australia feature Purpose-made coat provides degree of comfort for homeless The Order of Malta has been working for more than a decade to provide some comfort to those sleeping rough, by distributing "Coats for the Homeless". This project has provided more than 7000 coats to homeless people over the past 10 years. "Our unique coat has been designed in close consultation with homeless people themselves, to ensure it meets their specific needs," said Order Member, Prof. Ivan Shearer AM RFD. "It is three-quarter length, shower- proof, quilted and warm. Importantly, it is black so the person wearing it is inconspicuous, after feedback revealed their biggest fear is being assaulted." The coat provides the warmth of a sleeping bag or swag without restricting movement and so making the wearer vulnerable to attack. It is free from uncomfortable buttons or zips, with just elastic and velcro to offer a comfortable night's sleep and ease of wear. Prof. Shearer is urging Australians to give someone warmth and comfort this winter by buying them a coat. "Every day, almost 20,000 Australians are sleeping rough on the streets of our cities and towns," he said. "Half of all people who request accommodation from the homeless service system are turned away each day, due to a lack of beds. This leaves them extremely vulnerable, not only to the cold weather but to other dangers." The overwhelming demand for this program clearly illustrates the urgent need for this item of clothing. However as Prof Shearer explains, "The only issue limiting the number of coats we are able to distribute is a lack of funds." Members of the Order in South Australia are trying to raise money to provide Coats to the Hutt Street Centre in Adelaide -- a front-line agency providing essential and professional services to help people who are homeless and vulnerable in Adelaide. $100 will buy three specially designed, warm shower-proof coats for people who find themselves without a home this winter. "The onset of winter is always a busy time when we see the increase in cold and flu cases," explains Jan Ware, Clinical Nurse at the Hutt Street Centre. "The Coats for the Homeless initiative is very valuable and most appreciated by the Health Care Sector that supports Hutt St." If you would like to support the project, visit www. coatsforthehomeless.org to make a donation or send a cheque payable to 'The Order of Malta' and send to: Coats for the Homeless Southern Cross Appeal, The Order of Malta, PO Box 257, Surry Hills, NSW 2010. Gifts of $2 and more are tax deductible.