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Order of Malta’s meeting of global hospitallers concludes in Krakow – Vatican News

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“Roll up your sleeves and serve with competence” was the slogan of the 30th International Conference of Hospitallers of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which concluded Sunday in Krakow, Poland.

By Przemysław Radzyński 

The 30th International Conference of Hospitallers of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which began last Friday, concluded Sunday, March 17, in Krakow, Poland.

“Roll up your sleeves and serve with competence” was the leitmotif of the meeting, which gathered approximately 120 Hospitallers and leaders of humanitarian organizations operating within the Order of Malta in 35 countries.

The Order of Malta, or the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, was established around 1050. It is a secular order, traditionally of a military, chivalrous, and noble character. Today, it has 13,500 members, distinguished for their commitment to the Church and service to the poor and sick. It currently operates in over 108 countries.

The choice of the Polish capital to take stock of the most important humanitarian interventions currently underway in the world aimed to emphasize solidarity with the Ukrainian population devastated by war and to underscore the great humanitarian effort made by all entities of the Order of Malta, especially those bordering Ukraine, to assist refugees, displaced persons, and the injured. 

It also paid homage to the many Polish people who have welcomed thousands of refugees into their homes and schools, providing them with health and social care.

Conference Themes

The conference’s agenda included three main themes: spirituality in the works of the Order; collaboration and coordination among different entities in crisis situations; and international, regional, and national fields.

Also under discussion was the need to coordinate multinational rescue activities that take place in very different crisis situations, such as the conflict in Ukraine and in the Holy Land.

“We are here to discuss urgent needs and the strategy to adopt at a given moment,” explained Marcin Świerad, a Hospitaller of the Order of Malta in Poland.

“We should not carry out large works or profitable activities to replace the state or society in a particular country; instead, we must help those whom no one else wants to help. If a certain problem is solved, we thank God, we have done our job, and we listen to the Holy Spirit to understand what else we need to do.”

Surveying Different Realities of the World

“Today, the situation in the world is very difficult,” continued the Polish Hospitaller, referring to situations in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia, where there is concern about the situation in Taiwan or in Korea.

But there are also particular situations in South America.

“Venezuela is gathering military forces and resources,” reported Mr. Świerad. “For us, the situation beyond the eastern border is the most worrying. The problems, although specific to regions, are common to people.”

“When we had the largest wave of refugees from Ukraine,” he continued, “Hospitallers from other parts of the world came to our aid. Today, we are thinking about how to prepare for issues that I hope do not occur in other regions.”

Order of Malta in crisis situations

Regarding the coordination of international aid activities in very different crisis situations, such as conflicts in Ukraine or the Holy Land, Mr. Świerad emphasizes the difficult context of the hospital in Bethlehem managed by the Order of Malta.

“The hospital is isolated. It is not possible to move freely across the border and transport medicines. We want to serve the best we can, but we cannot do it in the way we would like.”

The Hospitaller also highlighted the dramatic situation in the Gaza Strip, where the Order of Malta would like to provide aid.

“We will deliberate, pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to indicate when and how to help people, regardless of their religion,” said Mr. Świerad, adding that in the medieval hospitals of the Order of Malta, there was a diet available for Christians as well as for Jews and Muslims.

Always approaching others with respect

“No one had problems, and no patient in our hospitals raised issues about the presence of the cross on the walls and the daily celebration of Mass,” he noted. “Everyone approached with respect. In each of the patients in our hospitals, we saw Christ, regardless of religion, skin color, or origin. This is exactly what we want to do today: see Christ in those in need.”

“This is what we ask of God—to help us in this. Then one must be faithful to one’s vocation and charism and act on it,” observed Mr. Świerad.

“That is, to find the best means and opportunities at a given moment to deliver food or medical supplies, to treat those we can, to bring people out of danger zones, or to offer more suitable places for the disabled. Nothing limits us, only love. The order must be a tool in the hands of God. This is our charism.”

Institutional Meetings in Poland

The importance of the gathering in Krakow was heightened by the presence of Fra’ John Dunlap, Grand Master of the Order of Malta, who will visit the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, and meet with the heads of Parliament and the Senate, as well as express gratitude for the numerous humanitarian activities of the Order of Malta in the country.

On Friday evening, together with the Hospitallers of the Order of Malta, the Grand Master participated in Mass at the Wawel Cathedral, presided over by Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz.

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, addressed a letter to Fra’ Dunlap, hoping for coordinated action by the Catholic Church to bring aid to the population of Gaza.

The 31st Hospital Conference will be held in Vienna in 2025.

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