Historical Papal Visit To The Order's Hospital In Rome
“I should like to take this opportunity of my visit to your hospital, run by the Italian Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, to consign my Encyclical Spe Salvi to the whole Roman community, and in particular to those who, like you, are in direct contact with suffering and sickness.” Thus Benedict XVI in a momentous visit to the Order's San Giovanni Battista Hospital in Rome. The Grand Master, Frà Andrew Bertie, in greeting His Holiness, affirmed that "The sick are at the heart of our mission."
"Dear knights of the Order of Malta, dear doctors, nurses and volunteers who work in the Hospital," the Pontiff said, "you are called to provide an important service that calls for abnegation and a spirit of sacrifice. In each sick person may you know how to recognise and serve Christ Himself. Show Him, with your gestures and your words, the signs of His merciful love."
In this regard Benedict XVI praised the contribution made by the Order of Malta to the mission of the Church to be near to the suffering and he recalled how, from its beginning in 1113, this lay religious order of the Catholic Church has dedicated itself "to the care of the sick, especially the poor and marginalized."
Together with the Grand Master, the Sovereign Council and members of the Order, the patients, their families, staff and volunteers prayed at the Mass celebrated by His Holiness at the Hospital.
Among the highlights was the Pontiff's visit to the Reawakening Unit, where patients are treated in the recovery phase known as 'vegetal state'. It is one of the very few in Italy offering this most difficult and touching care.
EXCERPTS FROM THE SERMON OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
Ist Sunday of Advent, 2 December 2007
Advent is a time of hope and it is in Christian hope that I wished to dedicate my second Encyclical, which was officially presented the day before yesterday: it begins with the words spoken by St.Paul to the Romans: “Spe salvi facti sumus – in hope we are saved”
The certainty that only God can be our firm hope inspires all of us, gathered together this morning in this house where the struggle against illness is continuous, sustained by solidarity. I should like to take this opportunity of my visit to your hospital, run by the Italian Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, to entrust the Encyclical to the Christian community of Rome, and in particular to those who, like you, are in direct contact with suffering and sickness.
Throughout the centuries, the Church has declared its ‘nearness’ to those who suffer. Your prestigious Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which from its earliest times dedicated itself to the care of pilgrims to the Holy Land in its hospital there, reflects this spirit. In following its mission to defend Christianity, the Sovereign Order of Malta has dedicated itself to caring for the poor and the sick and those marginalised by society.
Dear Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, dear doctors, nurses and all who work here, you are all called to render an important service to the sick and to society, a service which demands great self sacrifice. In everyone who is sick, no matter who, you must recognise that you serve Christ; let them perceive through your actions and words the signs of His merciful love.
with the coming of the Saviour “suffering – without ceasing to be suffering – becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise” (Enc.Spe salvi, 37). Comforted by these words, let us follow the eucharistic Celebration, invoking for the sick, for their families and all those who work in this hospital and in all of the Order of the Knights of Malta the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, mother of expectation and of hope.
SPEECH OF HIS MOST EMINENT HIGHNESS THE PRINCE AND GRAND MASTER FRA’ ANDREW BERTIE
May I express our immense joy at being able to greet Your Holiness here at the hospital of San Giovanni Battista, La Magliana. It is a true testimonial of the vocation and mission of our ancient institution. In their dedication to serve mankind in the Holy Land, the cradle of Christianity, the first hospitallers in the eleventh century chose to dedicate their lives to those whom they called 'Our lords the sick'. We remain faithful to this choice, for the sick are at the heart of our mission.
Your Holiness' visit to a hospital of the Order of Malta is a most special honour which extends to the Order's 40 hospitals and to all our healthcare institutions in Europe, in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East. It represents a most valued recognition for the members of the Order, the religious, the doctors, the nurses and the health workers as well as all the volunteers who give their services to the sick. This hospital of San Giovanni Battista, which lies in the diocese of Your Holiness, is well recognised for its high level professional care. It is an example of the great humanity and the deep Christian spirit towards the suffering, most of whom spend a long time here, most need rehabilitation, many recovering from the effects of coma.
Most Holy Father, your visit is a great encouragement for all of us, as we continue our privileged work for those who suffer. It gives renewed energy to all of the Order to renew and deepen the spirituality of our 12,500 members and joins us in the spirit of the admirable Encyclical 'Deus Caritas Est'.
Most Holy Father, with these emotions I offer you my most respectful welcome and the expression of our gratitude.
I ask for the Apostolic Benediction for this hospital, for all those who are sick and for the entire Order of Malta.