ROME, 21 MAY 2007 (From the Order of Malta) — The Grand Master’s meeting in Warsaw with the President of the Polish Republic Lech Kaczynski and the joint signature with the Health Minister of a framework cooperation agreement were two of the most significant moments of the state visit of His Most Eminent Highness Fra’ Andrew Bertie to Poland.
Received at the presidential palace with military honours, after the exchange of decorations, the Grand Master and the President of the Republic, flanked by their respective delegations and by ambassadors Vincenzo Manno and Hanna Suchocka, enjoyed a long and cordial conversation. A tangible sign of solid bilateral relations is the signature of the cooperation agreement for medical and hospital assistance. The order’s Grand Hospitaller and the Polish Health Minister signed a document that will help to improve the assistance given by the Order of Malta’s Polish Association, and in particular to the poorest and most needy. There will also be increasing support for terminal patients and the disabled through the numerous Order of Malta centres active in Poland, as well as cooperation for the development of emergency and first-aid medicine.
There were numerous meetings in Warsaw with the country’s highest-ranking personalities, including the Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Polish Parliament Speaker, Ludwik Dorn, the Vice Speaker of the Senate, Ryszard Legutko, the Cardinal Primate Józef Glemp and the Apostolic Nuncio in Poland Msgr. Jozef Kowalczyk. A State Dinner was offered by the President of the Republic in honour of the Grand Master.
The appointments in Krakow
The Grand Master’s visit to Poland began in Krakow. The first official appointment was the meeting with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. This encounter highlighted a significant guiding thread of the itinerary, the profound historical bonds between the Order and Poland and the extraordinary relationship of friendship, loyalty and reciprocal esteem linking the Order to the charismatic figure of Pope Wojtyla. One of the Grand Master’s most important engagements in Krakcow was his participation in the procession in honour of St. Stanislaus, patron of the city, with the President of the Polish Republic and Cardinals Glemp, Macharski, Dziwisz and Schoenborn.
There was an inspiring visit to the Sanctuary of Jasna Gòra in Czestochowa, in which the Grand Master rendered homage to the Black Madonna. Another important moment was the signature of a cooperation agreement with the Sanctuary – visited by over five million pilgrims every year – providing medical equipment and medicines for the vocational training of first-aid personnel. This agreement underscores the Order of Malta’s oldest vocation, that of assistance to pilgrims.
The meetings in the Order’s welfare facilities
Fra’ Andrew Bertie’s meeting with representatives of the Order’s Polish Association in the welfare facilities for children and disabled youths in Krakow and Warsaw rendered homage to the Order’s centuries-old presence in the country. The Order’s Polish Association now operates in numerous areas, including assistance to and treatment of drug addicts, economic support for families in difficulty, diagnosis and free treatment for cancer, therapeutic centres for mental patients and emergency services for victims of natural catastrophes.
An historic visit
The visit ending on 15 May was the first one that a Grand Master of the Order of Malta had made to Poland since that carried out by Grand Master Chigi Albani della Rovere in 1931.
WARSZAWA 14 MAY 2007 (From the Republic of Poland) — On 14th May 2007 His Eminent Highness the Prince Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta Fra’ Andrew Bertie began his official visit in Poland. It is the first visit of a Grand Master of the Order of Malta in the Republic of Poland since 1931.
In the courtyard of the Presidential Palace the Guest was welcomed by the President of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczyński accompanied by Mrs Kaczyńska. Following a discussion between the Presidential Couple and the Grand Master plenary talks were held between the two delegations, during which the current status of bilateral relations between the Republic of Poland and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta was discussed. In the course of the plenary meeting the interlocutors also covered the opportunities for increasing dynamics of the cooperation and setting-out plans for further cooperation, especially in the sphere of humanitarian and medical aid.
After conclusion of talks between the two delegations Zbigniew Religa, Minister of Health and Albrecht von Boeselager, Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta in the presence of the President of the Republic of Poland and the Grand Master of the Order of Malta signed a cooperation agreement in the area of health care between the Republic of Poland and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta.
In recognition of outstanding merit in developing cooperation between the Republic of Poland and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, President Lech Kaczyński awarded medals to His Eminent Highness and to representatives of the Order of Malta.
In the evening President Lech Kaczyński offered dinner in honour of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta.
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Raising a toast at the official dinner for the Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (and Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ), the President of the Republic of Poland praised the nine-hundred-and-fifty years of the order, saying that it “fought hard and heroically in defence of Christianity”. The President commended the Order’s charitable efforts in Poland as a “noble activity”. “We want to extend [the Order’s efforts] just as much as we want to deepen our ties with this Order, which stands for values that are unfortunately quite rare nowadays but so close to our nation. … We shall be extending this cooperation [between Poland and the Order of Malta] to the greatest extent possible, because we are one of those European countries in which the world of the values that the Order of Malta lives in, is not dead and I am convinced it never shall die.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Mr. Jarosław Kaczyński, noted earlier in the day that “We are full of admiration for the efforts of the Order of Malta that aim at supporting the diseased and the Christian faith all over the world”.
The press releases from the Chancelleries of the President and of the Prime Minister remark that the Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a sovereign and neutral subject of international law established 950 years ago. The order operates in 120 countries around the world — bringing help to victims of natural disasters, epidemics and armed conflicts — thanks to the commitment of 12,500 members, 80,000 permanent volunteers (including 2,000 in Poland) as well as 11,000 doctors and nurses. The Order is, as the PM’s press release phrases it, “one of the oldest institutions established by the civilization of Western Christianity”, deriving from a community of monks that operated a hospital and shelter in the Holy Land in the eleventh century. The Prince and Grand Master of the Order since 1988 has been Fra’ Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie of Scotland, who speaks fifteen languages and holds degrees in history, Oriental and African studies.