The Order of Malta’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations hosted a splendid diplomatic reception in honor of the Order’s 900th anniversary of sovereignty, an important milestone for the Order. The guests, the setting, the remarks: all added to the occasion commemorating the Order’s illustrious history and current good works around the globe. In short, it was a triumph. Ambassador Robert L. Shafer, Permanent Observer, and Mrs. Ellen Shafer hosted the event with the help of Ambassador Oscar de Rojas, Deputy Permanent Observer and Mrs. Patricia de Rojas.
U.N. ambassadors, high U.N. officials and other esteemed guests entered the large twilight-lit reception hall, congratulating Ambassador Shafer on the Order’s 900 years as they made their way through the receiving line. Ambassador and Mrs. Shafer warmly received 74 Ambassadors/Permanent Representatives including Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt; 14 Deputy Permanent Representatives; and His Excellency, the Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. Several high United Nations officials added to the prestigious guest list and sparkling atmosphere.
Guests mingled in the Delegates’ dining room with light flowing through windows overlooking the East River. Panels depicting Pope Pascal II’s Papal Bull, prepared by the St. John’s University’s Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, as well as photos of recent humanitarian works of the Order lined the walls and attracted the guests. The atmosphere was most convivial with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and conversation among diplomats and colleagues.
At the height of the reception, Ambassador Shafer gave remarks emphasizing the Order’s 900 years of dedicated service to the poor and the sick and highlighting its extensive cooperation with the United Nations.
“Humanitarian works have developed and expanded through the years and are now carried out in 122 countries, including some of the most challenging locations. This work is done through the Order’s extensive international network of hospitals and 100,000 trained volunteers and medical personnel.
“The Order of Malta and our humanitarian relief arm are deeply committed to the Millennium Development Goals and have undertaken specific projects that target problems addressed by the Goals, particularly Goals Four, Five and Six, often in partnership with UN programs, addressing maternal and child health, limiting the spread of HIV/AIDs and other diseases such as malaria and leprosy.
As our Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing has said, … ‘attainment of the eight Millennium Development Goals is vital for mankind. Whether they are achieved by 2015, which is our hope, or later, the will and commitment to these goals are firm.’”
The Secretary-General most graciously thanked Ambassador Shafer for the Order’s tireless efforts to help those in need. In front of a number of guests after my remarks, he commented that the Order has always been a great advocate of the Millennium Development Goals and an integral partner in their achievement.
It is also noteworthy that H.E. Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General and head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, thanked the Order for its good work and congratulated the Order of its 900 years of sovereignty. Countless other guests echoed these sentiments. Many representatives offered sincere words of gratitude for the activities of the Order in their countries.
The room was filled with men and women from the far corners of the globe. It was a proud moment to celebrate the Order’s illustrious history, its current works and its future success within the United Nations community.