An Article in "The Russian Pilgrim" of 1902
concerning a petition to re-establish the Order of Malta in Russia.
Source: Russian Pilgrim No 41, St. Petersburg. Copy in British Grand Priory Archives.
Translation © Countess Tatiana Bobrinskoy 1998.

(A publication compendium of religiously orientated news).

Petition to re-establish the Order of Malta.

At the present time, two representatives of the medieval Order, two brothers, Counts Villamari, Knights of Malta, are in St. Petersburg. The Order was founded in 1048 when merchants of Amalfi built in Jerusalem a monastery with a hospital and a chapel to St. John, the reason why the monks of that monastery whose duty it was to care for the ill and the poor pilgrims - were called johanitters or hospitallers.
Little by little, the monastic Order started to lose its character and finally in the l2th century, it was reorganised by the Abbott Rayrnond de Puy into a religious-knightly Order having as its principal aim the fight against the infidel. After many battles and migrations, the Order established itself on the island of Malta in 1530,whence it carries its present name.
When the last grandmaster of the Order, Hompesch, resigned his position, the Russian Emperor Paul I was elected as grandmaster; however, due to differences of religions, this election provoked the displeasure of several Catholic Monarchs, and an important part of the Order's possessions were sequestrated. Suddenly, basing themselves on the fact that the last grandmaster of the Order was Emperor Paul, the Maltese Knights presented themselves in St Petersburg to petition for the restoration of the Order in Russia. Of course, in our times, it is laughable for the Order to have as its aim the fight against the infidel. The time of forced conversion on the path of truth "by fire and sword'', -ad majorem Dei gloriam- has well passed and it is not for our humane century to open the book of history dealing with the bloody pages of the inquisition and religious wars. The natural calamities which took place repeatedly in the last years; floods, earthquakes, hunger and fires outlined for the Order its new activities - i.e. charitable.
According to the plan, the re-established Order must be one and the same for the entire Christian world and alleviate the suffering Christians, regardless of how these sufferings manifested themselves. Ravages of war must call for material and medical help by the Order. During hunger, floods the Order plans to show support to the victims, in the persons of its representatives; in cases of calamities of huge proportions - in the person of its Chapter. One cannot but agree that the aims of the Order are estimable and deserve sympathy, However, in spite of all the newest trends, the Order remained faithful to its medieval spirit. Even in the areas of charity, it did not want to renounce the division between sheep and goats -true-believers and the faithless (non-faithful) Christians and non-Christians.
The Order wishes to help only "suffering Christians". Can it be that a suffering Muslim, a suffering Jew deserve less pity from the humane point of view? It means, hunger in India, where hundreds of Hindu - Buddhists perished, that the earthquake in Shemakh, when thousands of Muslims were left without homes and bread, these calamities which affected those people, will not take the present day Knights of Malta out of their peaceful indifference, only because the victims of these calamities are Muslim and Buddhist, and not Christian?
Is it possible that the Knights of the Cross in the 20th century forgot the precept that for mercy "there is no Greek nor Jew".  (Petersburg Sheets).

In Russia a guarded view of the Roman Catholic Order (Sovereign Military Order of Malta; SMOM) was maintained. Despite his honorary Roman Catholic decoration, in 1902, Emperor Nicholas II failed to respond to a petition from the Roman Catholic Order of Malta, under its Grand Master Jean Baptiste Ceschi a Santa Croce, to establish a single Order in Russia. This attempt provides 'en-passant' a witness to the surviving Russian tradition - "According to the plan, the re-established Order must be one and the same for the entire Christian world". The author of the above article of 1902, who recorded the attempt, goes on to pour scorn on the exclusiveness of the Order of Malta.

Created 4th January 1999

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