This article was originally published on www.orderofmalta.int.
Interim Lieutenant: “We continue to work in the wake of the example set by our founder”.
The celebrations to commemorate the founder of the Sovereign Order of Malta 900 years after his death were held in Scala, in the province of Salerno, and worldwide on 3 September. Many historians claim he was born in Scala around 1040, and moved to Jerusalem where, in the second half of the 11th century, he became the head of the hospital built by Amalfi citizens to assist pilgrims. Founder and first Grand Master of the Order of St. John (now Sovereign Order of Malta), it was thanks to his charitable work and his charisma that Pope Paschal II, with his bull of 15 February 1113, transformed the hospital into a lay religious order of the church, with the right to elect its superiors without interference from any other authority, lay or religious.
Recognized as blessed by the Catholic church, Fra’ Gerard’s example – based on the founding motto Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum (bearing witness to the faith and helping the poor) – has animated the Order of Malta’s 900-year history. It is now present in 120 countries with health and social care carried out by a network of 13,500 members, 80 thousand volunteers and some 40 thousand professionals.
The celebrations in Scala began, on Thursday 3 September with a Solemn Mass presided by Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the Pope’s Special Delegate to the Sovereign Order of Malta.
“The Order of Malta will continue to exist and will make sense if love for God is able to combine love for the poor, a love that will not be limited to a simple and episodic welfareism, but that will be manifested in an intelligent and timely commitment to counteract those structures of iniquity that generate the disfigurement of the earth, social inequalities and the infinite number of the dispossessed in modern societies”, said the Cardinal in his homily, exhorting the knights and ladies of the Order, following the example of Blessed Gerard, “to welcome and respect one another, to live in harmony and fraternal love, so that their lives as believers may be credible and bear fruits of joy and peace”.
An invitation immediately accepted in the words of the Interim Lieutenant, Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas Boas: “The members and volunteers of the Order of Malta throughout the world are proud of their history and traditions which they translate daily into a commitment to alleviate human suffering”. Membership of the Order of Malta “is a privilege that we must continue to deserve through our daily commitment. In the wake of the tradition and example left us by our founder, Blessed Gerard”.
With the Interim Lieutenant, the members of the Sovereign Council – the Order of Malta’s government – the Procurators of the three Italian Grand Priories and 100 knights, ladies, chaplains and volunteers of the Order of Malta participated in the celebrations at Scala.
The Italian government was represented by the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, who, recalling the figure of Fra’ Gerardo, stressed the relevance of his “extraordinary message: the universality of care”.
The celebrations continued in the afternoon of 3 September with the presentation in the Piazza del Municipio of a set of commemorative stamps produced by Poste Italiane and dedicated by the Italian State to Blessed Gerard, followed, in the evening, by a concert of the famous violinist Uto Ughi.