Leader of Knights of Malta reflects on order’s 900th anniversary
February 06, 2013
Matthew Festing, the Englishman who has served as Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta since 2008, reflected on the state of the order, which will celebrate its 900th anniversary on February 9.
The order, which has 13,500 knights and dames, maintains diplomatic relations with 104 nations.
“On the one hand it's a sovereign entity,” he said. “On the other hand it's a religious order. On the other hand it's a humanitarian organization. It's a complicated mixture of things.”
Festing said that he hoped to expand the order’s membership beyond nobility, particularly in Europe.
“It's not exactly out of date, but you can't maintain that in the 21st century,” he said. “In general terms, in the old countries of Europe, we maintain the nobiliary requirement to an extent. But only to an extent. But in places like Australia, Central America, North America, Southeast Asia, it's all done on a different basis.”