Grand Priory of the UNITED KINGDOM

Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem

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About The Order

Ut Unum Sint

~ That they may be one

The Sovereign Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta is under the Spiritual Guidance and Protection of His Eminence Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani. The Order constantly works in the fields of charity and social welfare. Today the members of the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem dedicate their time and resources for the benefit of others, irrespective of their race, religion or origin. Every year the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of Saint John effects considerable donations in med icines, medical equipment and humanitarian aid. Beneficiaries include the Republic of Honduras, the Missionaries of the Poor, Sisters in the Philippines, the Municipal Children Hospital in Ukraine, the KIKA Foundation, the Estella Foundation, the Francisusoord Children’s Rehabilitation Centre and Ronald McDonald House. The Great Siege of 1565 made the Order famous for its chivalry and courage. Today the Knights Hospitallers, as in the past, still dedicate their time, effort and generosity to help the sick and poor.

International Grand Priories of The Order

The Orient
United Kingdom

International Headquarters of The Order

Castello dei Baroni is an impressive 18th century building situated in Wardija, Malta and was originally used as a hunting and summer residence by the most prominent Knights of the Order of St John. It was elevated to the status of a Castle in 1783 during the reign of Grand Master De Rohan. Despite having gone through various renovations and upgrades to meet today’s needs, it has kept its original form intact. Nowadays it serves as the International Headquarters and Seat of the Supreme Council of the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta.

The general public has the opportunity to visit this masterpiece of Maltese history from inside, to walk in the footsteps of famous Knights and Grand Masters and to see where the Knights’ Solemn Investiture ceremonies take place. One can also visit the Knights’ Supreme Council quarters and the Grand Master’s offices together with his private chapel. Part of the proceeds from the entry goes towards charity.

International Headquarters of the Order and Seat of the Supreme Council
Wardija SPB 07, Malta GC

A Brief History of The Order

The Order of St. John, one of if not the oldest orders of chivalry in existence today, has its roots in a hospice founded in Jerusalem in the eleventh century by merchants from Amalfi, to assist Christian travellers in the Holy Land. Some Knights of the First Crusade, upon entering Jerusalem in July 1099, joined in these good works, already underway. On February 15, 1113 Pope Pascal II through the Papal bull “Piae postulation voluntatis” recognized the Order as a self-governing religious Order, and his taking on the protectorate of the hospital and confirmed the acquisitions and donations of the Order in Europe and Asia.Today, all major Orders of St. John, including our Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem stem from this recognition, retaining the symbol of the white Cross of Amalfi under which the serving brothers worked in Jerusalem.

The Order quickly took the form of a military order of chivalry, continuing the Hospitaller traditions, but also becoming one of the principal defenders of the Latin (Christian) States in the Holy Land. After the collapse of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem in the late thirteenth century, and the loss of the last mainland Crusader foothold at Acre in 1291, the Order was established briefly on Cyprus, then for 213 years on Rhodes, becoming renowned for their hospital and advanced medical treatments; however, the Islamic empire was expanding and they were attacked in 1521 by overwhelming forces under the command of Suleiman the Magnificent and lost the battle for the island, against overwhelming odds. For a short time, the Knights were without a home. In March of 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V signed “the Act of Donation of Malta” ceding the Island of Malta to the Order along with several other nearby islands. During this time the Order had the largest naval fleet in the Mediterranean protecting shipping and the Southern coasts of Europe form the Ottoman Turks and pirates raiding from the Barbary Coast of North Africa.

During the epic siege of Malta in 1565, a tiny band of Christian defenders led by only 200 Knights, 2,000 men at arms of The Order and some 8,000 Maltese irregular troops defied the might of a vastly larger Ottoman invading force of over 40,000 until reinforcements arrived. This victory substantially slowed the movement of Suleiman the Magnificent and his forces of Islam into Christian Western Europe. In 1798, Napoleon threatened to invade Malta and the Order, on orders of the Grand Master Hompesch, surrendered without resistance. The majority of the Knights opposed the decision by the Grand Master, and lead by the Prince de Conde’, they established themselves in St. Petersburg, Russia under the royal protection of Tsar Paul I. In 1798, the Catholic Grand Priory of Russia (formerly of Poland), along with the newly established Orthodox Grand Priory of Russia, elected Tsar Paul I as the 70th Grand Master of the Order. Pope Pius VI, from the Monastery of Cassini near Florence, bestowed his paternal and apostolic benediction upon Paul I shortly after he accepted the office of Grand Master. It should be noted that the Tsar was, at the time, the Royal Protector of the Order by treaty signed with the penultimate Grand Master in Malta, Emanuel de Rohan.

The Tsar Paul 1st, Emperor of All the Russias and a potentate in Europe at the time, bestowed his protection to several Commanderies and priories of the Order in Europe, and new ones were established. The Order later expanded into the New World and today our Order functions independently of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (S.M.O.M.), which in 1834 had a revival after it was practically extinguished with the abdication of Ferdinand von Hompesch under treaty with Napoleon. Our Order and the latter Order can thus be considered two major branches of one original ‘tree'. This is our history, the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem; Knights of Malta are the direct descendents’ of those Knights in Russia. A “Supreme Court” ruling, delivered in Canada some years ago, confirmed the validity of this Order’s claim to legitimacy when this was challenged by the representatives of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Now Christian-ecumenical in character, the Order, its Knights, Dames, and volunteers, are under the leadership of His Imperial Royal Highness the Prince Grand Master the Chevalier Sandor Habsburg-Lothringen, Archduke of Austria, Prince of Tuscany; and work for charity, giving medical and social welfare care, and humanitarian aid worldwide; irrespective of race, colour or creed. As well as local donations, important international donations made by the Order include mobile hospitals, medicines and medical equipment to various nations, among them China, Russia, Honduras, Philippines, Ukraine and the Continent of Africa. The Order currently has bases in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, UK, and of course Malta which is where our International Headquarters is located.

Read a more detailed history of The Order here

Knights of The Order

Membership of The Order is strictly confined to practising Christians, irrespective of nationality or race, who are worthy, of good repute and sincere intent, prepared to honour and uphold the high ideals of The Order by actively engaging in its spiritual, fraternal, chivalric, hospitaller, charitable and other activities contributing to its aims.

The Knights and Dames of The Order solemnly vow to serve the Christian faith, preserve and support Christian traditions and dedicate their lives in service to Christ and the poor.

The members celebrate the Feast Days of their Heavenly Patrons; Saint John the Baptist on 24th June and Saint John of Almsgiver on 23rd January.
The Great Siege Day (Malta, AD 1565) is celebrated on 8th September in the respective Priories.
The Order's Prelates from all Christian denominations represent the Order in various spiritual activities and ceremonies across the globe.
A Solemn Investiture Ceremony is conducted each year in one of the International Grand Priory locations.

The aim of the Order is to carry on the Hospitaller traditions of promoting the glory of God through the sanctification of its professed members and through serving the Christian faith; Respecting and maintaining its historical roots and claims, and continuing to be an international, independent, Christian, religious, fraternal, chivalric and Hospitaller body. Defending Christianity in general throughout the world through education, championing truth and true to the divine precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ, affirming and propagating the general Christian virtues of charity and brotherhood, and taking care of the sick, the aged, the invalid, the poor and needy, refugees and the children in need, without distinction of religion, race, origin and age; Upholding in this and other connections the ancient Hospitaller customs and traditions, ceremonial and protocol deemed valuable and promoting and encouraging a truly Christian spirit of brotherhood and charity within and outside the Order.

The Motto of The Order

Ut Unum Sint ~ "That They May Be One"
"Ut Unum Sint" is an abridged version of St. John's Gospel, 17:21, which is Christ's prayer for Christian unity. In its full form the quotation reads:

"Ut omnes unum sint, sicut tu Pater in me, et ego in te, ut et ipsi in nobis unum sint"
Meaning: "That they may all be one, just as you Father are in me and I am in you, that they too may be one in us."

The shortened version "ut unum sint" (that they may be one), was used by Pope John Paul II as the title of an encyclical, or pastoral letter, which he issued on the theme of Christian unity.

His Most Reverend Eminence Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, Spiritual Guide of the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights of Malta

Born in Montemonaco, Italy, on the 11th of April 1930, his eminence is a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and president emeritus of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. He served as secretary of nunciature in Peru and Brazil and as auditor in nunciature in Chile. He was recalled to the Vatican as secretary of Cardinal Cicognani and subsequently of Cardinal Villot during their terms as secretaries of State. Later he was head of the secretariat of the Sostituto, Counselor of nunciature in France with special charge before the Council of Europe and Prelate of honour. In 1976, Pope Paul VI appointed him Tituar Archbishop of Caesarea in Mauretania and at the same time Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Madagascar and Mauritius. Sebastiani became Apostolic Nuncio (ambassador of the Holy See), to Turkey in 1985. In 1994, he was appointed General Secretary of the Central Committee for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In 1997, Sebastiani was made President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, part of the Roman Curia, responsible for auditing the temporal possessions of the Holy See. He served in this position until 2008. Cardinal Sebastiani was created and proclaimed Cardinal-Deacon of S. Eustachio on 21 February 2001, and was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. On 21 February 2011, he opted for the order of Cardinal Priest, with his former diaconal church elevated to the level of cardinalitial title.

Grand Masters of The Order

The Grand Master of the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, carrys on a rich tradition implemented and carried out by their predecessors; an unbroken line that reaches back to Blessed Brother Gerard in 1087. Throughout the ages, the Grand Master's role has been to guide, lead and strengthen The Order, such that it can continue to protect itself and others in it's hospitaller tradition. Modern times call for a modern approach, and the role now seeks to guide The Order through a very different world into which it was conceived. Modernising as appropriate, but sticking to the core values, principles and traditions that underpin its activities and membership, The Order continues to thrive in its mission to bring care and compassion to those around the world who need it most, under the un-waivering dedication and guidance of the Prince Grand Master, Sandor Habsburg-Lothringen.

Chronological list of Grand Masters of The Order

The Grand Priory of the United Kingdom

The original Knights and Dames of the UK Grand Priory were invested in Malta and, as they were scattered all over the UK, carried out their own fund raising and projects in the name of the Order in the area where they lived, meeting up for the Chapter Meeting and Investitures of a new Knights or Dames. The Berkshire Commandary was set up at the end of the 1970s and this enabled Members to be recruited and invested locally within the Counties of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The Berkshire Commandary invested its first Dames three or four years later, and as membership increased the Commandary was upgraded to Priory Status.

By the mid 1990’s there were sufficient members of the Order within the counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire that the Berkshire Priory became the Priories of St. George (covering Hampshire and some of Berkshire) and of St. Frideswide, covering Oxfordshire and a small part of Berkshire).

The Priories of St. Boniface (London) and St Martins (Kent & Surrey) were also established, and the United Kingdom also had a number of international expat members who were formed into the Priory of St Augustine. A further Priory (St John's) was formed in Belgravia.

In the late 1990’s it was decided to amalgamate the priories to allow for easier administration and the UK Grand Priory now consists of:

Priory of St George

Berkshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire

Prior, HE Chevalier Steve Gotting

Priory of St Boniface

London, Bedfordshire, and Hertfordshire

Prior, HE Chevalier Anthony Wellman

Commandery of St Augustine

Kent and Essex

Commander, HE Chevalier Laurence Pisani

Commandery of St Vincent de Paul

USA (Oversight from the UK)

Commander, HE Chevalier Mark Alexander

The United Kingdom Grand Priory has been proud to support a number of local and international initiatives over many years. In general this support has been given by the way of equipment provisions or service rather than monetary donations. The UK Grand Priory membership also supports numerous good causes through personal donations, fundraising and service within their local community.

Continuing our Hospitaller tradition, The Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem is committed to continued humanitarian and charitable work. The Knights and Dames of the Order, along with many volunteers work hard to raise and distribute aid around the world, to ease the suffering of the sick, the poor, and the disenfranchised. By organising many and varied charity events, the Order raises significant funds which it donates to worthy causes and campaigns in the UK and worldwide through financial donation and the purchase of much needed medicines, medical supplies and other items that make a significant difference to the lives of those in need. An example of some of the donations made in recent years from the Grand Priory of the United Kingdom are:

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