Vol. XIV No 5 July / August 2001  Issue 93  £2.50

Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers

Medical Help Projects

Dr. Michael R Brett-Crowther

Origins and Ethos

The Order was founded with permission of President Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus in 1972; and in 1974 delivered aid impartially to both sides during the Turkish invasion, and was responsible for evacuating the last three monks from the Apostle Barnabas Monastery. The Order was founded as an Orthodox Order of Saint John, and was intended to become a contemporary equivalent and successor to the Orthodox phase of the historic Order of Saint John during its period under the aegis of Tsar Paul I (1797-1801) and thereafter in Russia to c. 1811. Similar organisations in an Orthodox context are the Bratstva or organisations of lay people who defended their faith during the l6th century Counter-Reformation in Polish, Belarusan and Ukrainian areas. But in 11th century Byzantium, the idea of a local brotherhood or action group is evident in relation to specific devotion, such as a confraternity founded in Thebes in 1048,
In 1992 the Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers began to transfer aid, mostly medical materials, to Russia. In 1995 a fresh Constitution - approved by Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain was registered under English law with the Charity Commissioners. The objects are: 1. to relieve poverty, human suffering and distress through a diaconal ministry of service as commanded by the Gospel (Matthew 25, 31- 46: James 1, 27 and promulgated by Saint Basil the Great of Caesarea and Saint John the Almsgiver of Alexandria;
2. to advance Christian religion especially that of the Orthodox Churches;
3. to advance education under the aegis of Christian religion:
4. and general charitable purposes 'for the glory of God and the good of mankind', as the motto of the Order proclaims.

Today Orthodox people cannot carry out mission only by celebrating the Liturgy. We need to rediscover philanthropia as a part or as a fruit
of the Liturgy. (Metropolitan Daniel of Moldavia, speaking in Iasi, Romania, May 1996). The Order has the full blessing and recognition of HIs All Holiness Œcunienical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Writing to the Order, the Patriarch's Chief Secretary Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia has said: 'It is as good stewards of the gifts of God that we are called to live out out Christian life and express that faith in good works of charity, as the holy apostle James correctly writes in regard to Abraham, 'You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works" (James 3:22). Our Patriarch encourages you to continue to serve the Church with steadfastness, love, and dedication.' (Phanar, November II 1998).

No attempt has been made to assert equivalence with the self accepting Orders of Saint John; nor to claim any prerogative powers. It is a matter of fact, incidentally, that in international law the Sovereign
devoted to the Mother of God, or another brotherhood devoted to Saint Demetrios which led the defence of Thessaloniki against the Normans in 1185 and administered relief after the sack of the city. The Western feudal idea entered Byzantine social life in the 12th century, such that Emperor Manuel Comnenus was overlord of the Franks in Antioch, but Byzantium's own social system developed with the activities of the brotherhoods established for an Orthodox and local purpose.


Patron:    Professor Sir David Weatherall, F.R.S.

Secretary:Dr. Michael R. Brett-Crowther, G.C.O.H.

9 Shelford Rise, London, SE19 2PX

Tel/fax 020 8653 3089

Mobile: 07798 830905

E-mail: aumonier@aol.com


Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers

Military Order of Malta is recognised only as a relief society. It is on this level that our fidelity to our belief must be proved. But for those who are concerned with matters of recognition, it may be helpful to add that the Order is recognised by the Crown on the same footing as Papal honours; and that it has received a Charter from the Patriarch of Antioch, and the blessing of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, and Metropolitan Sawa, head of the Orthodox Church of Poland, as well as individual hierarchs including Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk, Archbishop Evlogy of Vladimir, Archbishop Alexei of Alinaty, Archbishop Afanasii of Perm, Archbishop Makary of Vinnitsa (Moscow Patriarchate), Bishop Augustin of Lviv (Moscow Patriarchate); Archbishop Bartolomeu of Cluj-Napoca, Bishop Yefrem of Banja Luka, Metropolitan Joannikij of Sliven (Bulgaria); and its work has been notified to the Patriarchs of Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, in all of whose territories assistance has been given by the Order.

The wife of the President of Armenia has recognised the contribution the Order has made to her country and to Nagomo-Karabakh; while the Government of Azerbaijan has concluded three Memoranda of Agreement with the Order in respect to its activity. There is a significant Orthodox minority in Baku (Moscow Patriarchate) as there is also in Kazakstan.


By sending consignments of aid, mostly hospital equipment, disability aid, education materials and medical consumables to areas of need, the Order seeks undertakings as to accountability from those whom it helps. In Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the Order is under the aegis of the local bishop, and thus the Order's gifts come from the family abroad to the family at home. This is not always the experience in

such countries, where many non- Orthodox organisations are active. We were asked to help establish two G.P. Clinics in Oktobyrsk, Aktyubinsk province, Kazakstan, where there was a need for office chairs as well as instruments and dressings. The Order made the first gifts in Britain to mitigate the effects of the first war in Chechnya. We have helped to establish three clinics (one G.P., one orthopaedic, and one maxillo-facial and plastic reconstructive surgery) in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, for the benefit of refugees. We helped to establish the hospice in Ulyanovsk, Lenin's birthplace, and another at Dimitrovgrad; and have a special concern with the national children's hospice in Minsk, Belarus, the country which received 70 percent of the fallout from Chemobyl in 1986. The Order also provided the feedstock for a wheelchair repair unit in the national orthopaedic rehabilitation centre, Minsk, and an- other at Mona, in Jamaica.

At one time or another we have given materials to Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus. Bulgaria. Chechnya, Cyprus, Egypt, Former Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kazakstan, Kenya, Lebanon. Moldova, Palestinian Autonomy' (West Bank and Gaza), Romania, Russia. Tajikistan, Ukraine; and even to a remote hospital at Denge, Szechuan province, China, near the Tibetan border. These contributions have been mostly of medical and dental materials, and materials for rehabilitation and support of the disabled, but also educational materials including those for theological education (Seminaries in Minsk and Tbilisi, St Andrew's theological institute in Moscow).

The Order in May 2000 re-equipped the old people's home at Hajnowka, run by the Polish Orthodox Church, and also sent a significant, broad range of supplies to the Ministry of Health, Georgia, as well as to the First City Hospital and the Dept. of Paediatric & Adolescent

Medicine, State Medical University, Tbilisi, Georgia; and plans to establish wheelchair repair workshops in Georgia and Armenia. To assist the work of the Orthodox Church in the Caribbean area, the elements of a small hospital were delivered in April 2001. In April 2000, the gerontological institute in Belgrade received supplies and the Orthodox Church's hospital in Tirana, Albania, also received supplies. In October 2000, the Pokrov Bogodorichen (Protection of the Mother of God) Medical Centre, Sofia, Bulgaria, received a broad range of supplies for clinical care and help to the disabled. Gifts have been made to several centres in Ukraine: including the Institute of Endocrinology, Clinical Hospital No 12, the Institute of Paediatric Haematology, and the Cardiac Centre for Infants - all in Kyiv; as well as to Odessa Secondary Boarding School No 4 for Orphans, and Municipal Clinical Hospital No 11, in Odessa; Specialised Children's (Cancer) Hospital in Lviv; and similar institutions in Vinnitsa. A further big load is being prepared for Vinnitsa (May 2001). Materials were sent to supply essential clinics including a new one for refugees in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, soon after NATO's action in Kosovo was ended. In December 2000, the Order sent an emergency load of two tonnes to Novi Sad and Vojvodina Province, Yugoslavia, where even minor operations had become impossible for lack of supplies. And in the same month a large load of general hospital equipment was given to assist in the establishment of a new hospital at Kisumu, Nyanza Province, Kenya.

In Bethlehem, the Priory of Palestine is responsible for receiving aid of various kinds including foodstuffs, for the West Bank and Gaza. Our Lord is the Christ of the Cave, the first Refugee, and the fate of Palestinian Christians - many of whom are among the descendants of the first Christian communities - is a matter which concerns all the Orthodox. The Order has by agreement


Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers

with the State of Israel the right to import free of import duties medical and related humanitarian materials to the Palestinian Autonomy areas, but this specifically excludes Israel including Jerusalem. Instruction in icon painting was given to Palestinian Orthodox in September 2000. No icons sold in the Holy Land are at present produced by Palestinian Orthodox. New possibilities now arise. A consignment of foodstuffs will be sent to Bethlehem to assist with remedying the effects of Israeli shelling of Beit Jala and related areas.

Sources and Resources

The Order receives a wide range of materials from healthcare institutions in Great Britain and Ireland. But there are always special needs, which are not readily met; e.g. ECG, EEG, foetal heart monitor, theatre lamps, instruments, dialysis equipment. The transfer of aid includes anything which is normal in the provision of healthcare in a Western European / North American context. Anything could be relevant: whether

computers and related apparatus, or office partitioning, or nurses' dresses and surgeons' suits, beds, or desks and filing cabinets. There are many situations where chronic under-provision or the effects of war have left a burden of need. All these transfers of aid depend on flows of good second-hand - and sometimes new - resources, and the involvement of dedicated helpers, many of whom work long hours. There are no paid staff.

The main problem is transport, both within the British Isles and to destination; and the Order welcomes loans of vehicles and drivers, storage space etc. Letters of acknowledgement of receipt are required, because evidence of successful delivery to legitimate institutions is important, and rightly so.

Despite difficulties with Customs in some places, there is continued satisfactory progress. Sponsorship from the British Waterways Board, London Transport, South Eastern Electricity Board, TNT, Convoy of Hope, Lions etc is highly valued.

The Order receives no financial support from the British Government or the European Union. The need to raise funds is a constant fact.

Much of the work is labour-intensive, and H.M. Prison Gloucester repairs wheelchairs for us and does other minor repairs and improvements, like painting canes white for the use of blind people. There is also help from H.M. Prison Long Lartin and H.M. Prison High Down. Other necessary tasks include sorting, allocating, Packing labelling, etc.

Any Orthodox who can identify secure - free - transport mechanisms from Britain to any destination where genuine need exists in Russia, or elsewhere, are invited to inform me with details. The Order is willing to co-operate with likeminded groups in making necessary changes in any of our countries of concern. There is no other Orthodox charity in the United Kingdom which endeavours to do so much.