ROME, September 11. /TASS/. Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Giacomo dalla Torre has expressed a wish to pay a visit to Russia, he said in an exclusive interview with TASS First Deputy Director General Mikhail Gusman on Wednesday.
"There are a multitude of visits scheduled, but the decision on them is made by our Grand Chancellor, he chooses the most suitable moments. However, should such an opportunity arise, I would gladly come," the Grand Master said in response to a question on a possible trip. "Unfortunately, I have not been lucky so far to visit Russia. But I know a lot about the Russian art," he added.
The Grand Master pointed out that the most ancient order in the world shares a special connection with Russia. "Russian Emperor Paul I was our Grand Master," he recalled. "We have a lot in common, we are especially sensitive to problems of the humankind, social issues. These issues unite us. I think that we have very similar worldviews and attitudes to everything that relates to striving for peace," dalla Torre underlined.
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta) was founded in 1099 in Jerusalem and is celebrating its 920th anniversary this year.
Nine centuries of history
The Order of Malta was officially founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century and rose to prominence after Pope Paschal II issued a Papal Bull awarding the status of a military order to the monastic brotherhood. The Bull also recognized the Blessed Gerard as the founder of the order that relies on the group of monks, the Knights of Justice, that still form the core of the Order of Malta. The order’s initial purpose was to take care of the sick and needy and, therefore, a hospital and a convent for pilgrims were built in Jerusalem. Later, the order’s hospitals started to emerge in other locations where the order was present — first on the Isle of Rhodes and later in Malta, where the order’s seat was located until 1798. In 1834, it settled permanently in Rome, where its headquarters has been situated ever since.
The order has 13,500 Knights, Dames and auxiliary members. Its key area of activity remains to be charity, particularly providing medical and humanitarian assistance. The Order of Malta is a subject of international law and enjoys sovereignty, it maintains diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries, including Russia, and holds observer status in more than 80 international organizations.