Dear Confreres, dear friends,
It is now six years since I became Grand Master, and five since we met in Venice, when I was relatively newly elected and had had considerably less experience than now. Yet, for all the extraordinary privilege and experiences I have encountered in recent years, my priority remains the humble service of the sick and the poor. It is this role of the Order, our constant and devoted help for those who suffer, which has stood the test of time and I believe it will continue to serve as our purpose for centuries to come.
Our ability to stand independently of other governments and organisations puts us in a unique position to help in our complicated, divided and war-torn world. We stand taller and stronger because of our faith. We achieve extraordinary feats across nations, religions, cultures and creeds, facilitating interfaith dialogue and cooperation in some of the most complicated environments imaginable. One need only look at the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, and our work with the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, or the new programme by Malteser International with indigenous communities in Colombia, to understand the importance of our approach.
Over the last few years, I have come to understand more completely the depth and complexity of our global institution. As Grand Master, I see first-hand the extraordinary commitment and compassion that our members and volunteers display towards the people they work with, and the unique, personal, loving way in which they work with those whom the rest of the world has forgotten. From prison ministries to leper colonies to war zones – the Order helps individuals who have been overlooked. This is something I want more people to understand about the Order. Alongside our spirituality, traditions and our sovereignty, it is what sets us apart from other organisations, and indeed from other states.
I look forward to the opportunity to spend time with our Priors, Presidents, Ambassadors, Hospitallers and the rest of our delegates in Rhodes at our Strategy Seminar – and to think about how we safeguard and build upon the many strengths of our Order in the years ahead. The Global Fund for Forgotten People will be instrumental as we build this future, helping us to develop new sources of income, to support the hospitaller works, and to enhance understanding of our Order's role in the world amongst our more remote membership and the wider public. All three of these activities of the Fund meet objectives we identified together in Venice five years ago.
I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to all those involved in the Order. In particular, I want to thank those of you who have developed work of the Order in service of those who need us most. This is at once humbling to see, and a source of great pride.
I very much look forward to hearing from you how you want to help the Order grow and flourish in the years that come, and I am depending on you to make this happen – in whatever role you may have – as we work together in the service of the Forgotten.
Fra' Matthew Festing
H.M.E.H. Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta