Sunday June 27, 2010 in Halifax, Fra' Matthew Festing, head of the Order of Malta, will assist at Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica and take part in a number of governmental-level ceremonies, some associated with the Centennial of Canada's Navy, that flow from relations that exist between Canada and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (as described below in a Government of Canada website): On June 4, 2008, Canada established official relations with the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta,through an exchange of letters between Canada¹s Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Order¹s Grand Master. The Grand Master (center) is pictured with The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and The Honourable Noel Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate.
Founded in 1048 as a monastic community dedicated to helping the sick and the needy, the Order was originally known as the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Through the Middle Ages, it evolved into a religious and military chivalrous order of the Roman Catholic Church and is commonly known today as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM). It is the sole successor to the original Order of 1048. The Order continues its medical and humanitarian work today, helping victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters by providing medical assistance, caring for refugees, and distributing medicines and basic equipment for survival. Through its development assistance program, Canada works with the Order in many parts of the world, in particular for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Ambassador of Canada to the Holy See is Canada¹s official point of contact with the Order. The Diplomatic, Consular and Other Representatives in Canada publication lists "SMOM - Sovereign Military Order of Malta - Canadian Association" in the section "International Organizations and Other Offices". (Source: www.canadainternational.gc.ca)
FRA' MATTHEW FESTING FRA¹ MATTHEW FESTING, the Order's Grand Prior of England, was on March 11,2008 elected Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta. The new grand master was chosen in a secret ballot by the Complete Council of State. After receiving the approval of the Pope, His Most Eminent Highness swore the Oath before the council and the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi. Now sixty, Fra¹ Matthew was, before his election, an art expert for the auction house Sotheby¹s. The Prince is the son of Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing who, as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was the effective head of the British Army. Sir Francis converted to Catholicism and married a member of the Riddells of Swinburne Castle, a prominent recusant family. Through his mother, Fra¹ Matthew is descended from the Blessed Sir Adrian Fortescue, an English Knight of Malta who was martyred for the Faith in 1539. The grand master¹s brother Andrew Festing, RP is a noted portraitist. As a child, Fra¹ Matthew lived in Egypt and Singapore where his father held army postings, and was educated at Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire and St. John¹s College, Cambridge. Passing out from Sandhurst, he was commissioned an officer in the Grenadier Guards, Britain¹s most senior infantry regiment. (The Coldstream Guards are actually older, but their seniority was reduced for backing Cromwell in the Civil War). Holding the rank of Colonel in the Territorial Army, Fra¹ Matthew served the Queen as Deputy Lieutenant for Northumberland for many years, and was appointed to the Order of the British Empire (OBE). Having joined the Order of Malta in 1977, Fra¹ Matthew took solemn vows in 1991 and was appointed Grand Prior of England in 1993, when the Grand Priory was resurrected after 450 years in abeyance. In that post he led humanitarian missions to Kosovo, central Serbia, and Croatia, and has attended the annual British pilgrimage to Lourdes with the handicapped and the disabled. The Order of Malta has been remarkable in that it has had no qualms about modernization while at the same time unabashedly keeping to its ancient traditions. Fra¹ Matthew intends to continue the centuries-long tradition of the Order of Malta: to defend the Faith, to serve the Poor.