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Order of Malta: Know about the rarest passport in the world


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The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a Catholic lay religious order which was established around 1,000 years ago. It is a permanent observer at the United Nations and carries out humanitarian work all over the world.

The Order of Malta was founded in the 11th century in Jerusalem. (Photo credit: orderofmalta.int)

New Delhi: A passport is something that everyone must have, as it serves as identity proof and also enables us to visit foreign countries. But there are some passports which are hard to get. And when it comes to getting the passport of Order of Malta, the task becomes the most difficult. Reportedly the rarest passport in the world, it is a passport very few people have.

What is the Order of Malta?

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a Catholic lay religious order which was established around 1,000 years ago. It is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisations and has no territory, but is considered by the international law to be a sovereign entity. This neutral and apolitical organisation has diplomatic relations with more than 100 nations and the European Union. Also, the Order of Malta is a permanent observer at the United Nations.

The Order of Malta was founded in the 11th century in Jerusalem and has traditionally served the vulnerable and the sick. Its full name is Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta and its seat has been in Rome since 1834. It has around 13,500 Knights, Dames and Chaplains as members. Recently, the membership eligibility criteria were relaxed a bit and Knights and Dames of the lowest class, who don’t have to provide proof of aristocratic lineage can become a member of the highest class, becoming eligible for office in the Order.

The activities of the Order of Malta

The Order of Malta’s activities are spread across 120 nations. It focuses on caring for people distressed and in need its medical, social and humanitarian works. Especially, the Order of Malta helps those who live in places witnessing armed conflicts or those who have experienced natural calamities by providing medical aid, shelter and support for the refugees, distributing medicines and basic survival equipment. It is dedicated to the preservation of human dignity and the care of all those in need, regardless of their origin or religion.

It carries out its activities through 11 Priories, 48 national Associations, 133 diplomatic missions, 1 worldwide relief agency and 33 national volunteer corps. Also, the Order of Malta operates numerous medical centres, hospitals and other specialist foundations. Neither it has any political or economic goal nor it is dependent on any country or its government. It has about 52,000 doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics helped by 95,000 volunteers and through Malteser International, the Order of Malta helps those affected by wars, epidemics and natural disasters.

Why is it so difficult to get its passport?

Even though the Order of Malta has no land, it issues car license plates, stamps, currency and passports. It first began to issue passports in the first decade of the 14th century and after World War II, the Order of Malta began to issue diplomatic passports whose features are like the passports of other nations. According to CNN, currently, there are only around 500 diplomatic passports in circulation.

Who can get the passport?

The Order of Malta issues a crimson passport which is given only to the members of the Sovereign Council and leaders of diplomatic missions and their families. The passport, which has 44 pages watermarked with the Maltese cross, has the name of the organisation written in gold letters in French, “Ordre Souverain Militaire de Malte,” and a crest.

The diplomatic passports are given for the duration of the government members’ mandates. The passports of the Grand Masters, who act as the leader of the organisation, are valid for 10 years as they are elected for that period and must retire at the age of 85. The validity of other diplomatic passports which are issued only for official missions is four years. The passport is recognised by two-thirds of Schengen members but according to ‘Travel + Leisure’ magazine, it is not accepted in the United States, the United Kingdom, or New Zealand.

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