49th International Ceremony of Investiture of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta (KMFAP) between 6-7 October 2023 in Malta
 

The Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, Federation of the Autonomous Priories (KMFAP) held the 49th edition of its knighthood ceremonies in Malta from 6 to 7 October 2023. 
The aim of this traditional event in a festive setting and joyful mood is to reinforce the sense of community among the members and to strengthen the Order of Saint John to continue its mission and uphold its long-standing principles and traditions. 
Given the challenging circumstances posed by the global pandemic, the opportunity for members of the Order from the national priories and langues of various countries to gather in person has been a source of great joy and relief. The ability to convene without the restrictions previously imposed due to COVID-19 pandemic would undoubtedly have fostered a sense of camaraderie and unity among the knights and dames, reaffirming the bonds and shared values of the Order. 

Brief History of the Knights in Malta 
Malta was an utmost historic place for the Sovereign Order of Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem. The presence of the Knights on the island for almost three centuries has left an indelible mark on the collective memory of the members of the Order and the Maltese people. The Maltese Islands were donated to the Order in 1530 by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (King Charles I of Spain), and thus became the Knights’ new home after being expelled from Jerusalem, followed by Acre, Cyprus and Rhodes. So Malta became their homeland, where they stayed for 268 glorious years and worked until 1798, leaving behind a great and valuable heritage. The period of their rule in Malta was marked by numerous accomplishments and contributions that left a lasting impact on the islands and the wider European context. During their time in Malta, the Knights fortified the island, built a new city of Valletta and constructed a series of forts and bastions that were vital to protecting Europe from the expanding Ottoman Empire. The defence of Malta against the Ottoman invasion in 1565, known as the Great Siege of Malta, is particularly renowned for displaying the bravery and military prowess of the Knights. This event is considered a crucial moment in the history of the Mediterranean and European powers. 
Furthermore, the Knights were instrumental in fostering cultural, artistic and architectural developments in Malta, leaving behind an impressive legacy of Baroque architecture and art. The Knights’ influence can still be seen in the many landmarks and structures that testify to their enduring presence on the island. Their eventual departure from Malta in 1798 was a result of the invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces, launching an amphibious operation that enabled them to invade the island with minimal resistance, which led to the end of the Order’s rule on the island. During the occupation of Malta, the Knights were expelled and the French took control of the islands. Soon after, the British captured Malta from the French and it remained under British rule until 1964, when Malta gained independence and became a republic in 1974. It is important to highlight that 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of Malta’s independence and 50 years since the declaration of the Republic of Malta.


Regarding the Order of St. John, in 2023 we commemorated the 225th anniversary of the end of the independent state of the Knights of Saint John in Malta. Unfortunately, the Treaty of Amiens, signed in 1802, which laid out certain stipulations for the restoration of the former independent state of the Knights, did not lead to its actual reinstatement. Nevertheless, their legacy continues to be celebrated and remembered both in Malta and across Europe, as a testament to their significant role in shaping the history and culture of the region. In 2018, Valletta had the honour of holding the title: “Capital of European Culture”. 

We are very proud to have had the privilege of holding the 49th International Knighthood Ceremony of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, Federation of the Autonomous Priories (KMFAP) in The Sacra Infermeria – The Mediterranean Conference Center (MCC), at its very impressive La Valette Hall, organised by the members of the International Event Organising Committee of the Magisterial House of KMFAP.

On this occasion our knights, dames, postulants and guests were in attendance from 36 countries: Malta, Hungary, Portugal, USA, Angola, Albania, Austria, Australia, Benin, Cabo Verde, Canada, China, Colombia, Cote D' Ivoire, Congo-Brazzaville, France, Gabon, Germany, Guyana, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Moldova, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Türkiye, UK – from 5 continents (Europe, Africa, America, Asia, Australia). Postulants and members of the Order with their families and illustrious guests came to attend this special event consisting various chapters. At the beginning of October, Malta offered us beautiful weather with a temperature of 28°C, which is another attraction of this country with 7000 years of amazing history, preserving the legacy of various eras with unique places to enjoy in this tiny but historically and geopolitically highly important island. 

Day of Honour: 6th October 2023, Friday

The two-day event started on Friday with the “Day of Honour”, a meeting dedicated to the Postulants of the Order: the General Chapter of Knights was held at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, located in Floriana.

Based on our excellent experiences gained over multiple years, the Grand Excelsior Hotel became the Headquarters Hotel of the Order in Malta for its unique seafront location and close proximity to the heart of Valletta, the capital of Malta. The combination of picturesque settings and attentive, professional and courteous service provided by the Grand Excelsior Hotel staff further contributes to a welcoming and hospitable environment for members and guests. The convergence of members in good health and high spirits, coupled with the positive atmosphere, contributed to a successful and meaningful first meeting. 



Agenda of the General Chapter of Knights meeting: 

  • Opening of the meeting and welcoming of the Postulants and members of the Order by the Grand Master, HMEH Prince José
  • Welcome words and General Introduction of KMFAP, including its structure, leaders, institutions, foreign and diplomatic activities by H.G. George Popper, Lieutenant General and Prime Minister of the State of the Order

  • Presentation of FEMERAID International Air Rescue by Sir Nuno Cosmelli, Secretary General of FEMERAID International

  • Presentation of FEMERAID International Ambulance Service by the Grand Master
  • Presentation of the Association of KMFAP Knights in Malta by Sir Pierre Mallia, President of the Association’s Executive Committee
  • Report on our Grand Priory in Benin by Sir Florentin A. Tchaou, Grand Prior

  • Report on our Embassy in Congo-Brazzaville by Sir Henri Nsika, Ambassador 

  • Brief report on humanitarian events in North-East Germany by Sir Michael Bock
  • Brief report on humanitarian events in Cambodia by Sir Philip Nagar Lai, Prior of Hong Kong
 
  • Introduction of the Postulants, one-by-one, while handing over the Postulant Diplomas together with the “Code of Chivalry” and the 1 Tari coin in folder with Certificate

  • Announcement of new Appointments, including the new Grand Prior of Malta, Sir Alfred Galea, Grand Cross of Malta, who is a devoted member of the Order of Saint John, working for the benefit of the Order for many year with enthusiasm and efficiency in all areas of activity. (Sir Alfred Galea, Sir Roland Gisler, Sir Jozef Stupar, Sir Michael Bock, Sir Károly Miklósi, Sir Sasha Vuk) 
  • Information about the Ceremony of Investiture to be held next day in the La Valette Hall of MCC 
  • Showing the Summary video of the last ceremony in Malta in 2022 to the Postulants in order to have them be prepared for the Investiture

The “Watch of the Arms” Session: 

The meeting was followed by the “Watch of the Arms”. Historically, this would have signified the dedication of the knights to maintaining a constant state of preparedness and vigilance, both in physical combat and in protecting the vulnerable. It could also evoke the sense of duty and honour associated with the noble traditions of chivalry, emphasizing the importance of upholding the principles of bravery, loyalty and selfless service in the face of any danger. This very ancient tradition is usually held as a type of meditation and includes an informative lecture by the Grand Master to the Postulants, recalling the eve before the investiture of the postulants in the medieval times, focusing on the history of the Order, the enduring traditions, and the ancient symbols: the 8-pointed white cross, the red cape (which they receive during the knighting process and wear according to the occasion), the knighting sword, the spur, the outfits, the moral principles of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem that they must respect and preserve, to provide a comprehensive understanding of their rich heritage and vital role in today’s world. 

The process of becoming a Knight within the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem was indeed a significant and transformative experience, requiring rigorous spiritual and physical preparation, a crucial aspect of the Order’s tradition, to ensure that the postulant was ready for the responsibilities and challenges that came with knighthood, emphasizing the importance of spiritual fortitude, discipline and dedication to the ideals of chivalry and genuine devotion to its mission of protecting the needy and vulnerable service. This comprehensive combination of spiritual and physical preparation was intended to instil a sense of honour, resilience and dedication in the postulants, enabling them to embody the noble ideals and principles of the Knights of Saint John. 



The Grand Master asked the postulants to decide in what activities they wanted to be involved after becoming members of the Order, emphasizing the importance of the humanitarian work of the KMFAP as a key activity of the knights and dames all over the world since the establishment of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in the mid-11th century. 

The Welcome Dinner: 

The official acts were topped and ended in conformity with the old chivalric traditions: with the Welcome Dinner, offering a large selection of dishes and beverages, which the postulants, knights, dames and guests with their families and other VIP guests enjoyed in a friendly mood. The choice of the hotel courtyard as an open-air venue with its warm evening weather created an enchanting and inviting setting for the dinner, allowing everyone to enjoy the natural beauty and serenity of the Maltese surroundings. 

 

The Piazza, coupled with the sounds of Latin American music and songs by a Colombian singer, living in Malta, Ana Milenaria, accompanied by her guitarist partner, have set the stage for a delightful and engaging evening, fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among all in attendance. The dinner, set against the backdrop of the vibrant Maltese ambiance, undoubtedly have left a lasting impression and created cherished memories for all those present. 

Day of Investiture: 7th October 2023, Saturday

 It is a great pleasure and honour to return to the roots of the Order and a privilege to host our knighthood ceremonies in Malta, in a truly unique and authentic place, the former Sacra Infermeria in Valletta from the 16th century. A leading hospital and medical facility, built and operated by the Knights of Saint John, it was considered the best hospital in all of Europe at the time. We are very proud of its history, and we recalled the memory of our brave knights and great predecessors who served in the hospital and provided excellent medical care to all who needed it. There is a very interesting and comprehensive museum (currently under reconstruction), depicting the history of the former hospital and the work of the care-giving Knights and Dames as medical staff.

Venue of the Ceremony: The Sacra Infermeria – The Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC)

The 49th International Knighthood Ceremony of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, Federation of the Autonomous Priories (KMFAP) took place in the very impressive La Valette Hall of MCC with more than 150 persons in attendance, organised by the team members of the International Event Organising Committee of KMFAP. The Hall was full of family members of the postulants, the knights and other guests waiting for the ceremony to begin. It is a great experience to be present in a magnificent room, beautifully decorated with the symbols of the Order, dominated by red, the colour of KMFAP. 
The use of the former La Sacra Infermeria to host knighthood ceremonies for the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem not only pays homage to the rich heritage of the Knights of St. John, but also allows for the perpetuation of their legacy and values in a space that bears witness to their enduring impact on Malta and the wider European historical landscape. The Sacra Infermeria, with its storied past as a prominent hospital and medical facility during the Knights’ tenure in Malta, holds notable cultural and historical significance to the Order and the Maltese people. The transformation of this historic building into the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC) is a testament to its adaptability and resilience, allowing it to continue serving a meaningful purpose in modern times. The fact that it has achieved international reputation as a venue for high-level international events further underscores its importance as a symbolic and functional space. The aura of the past that still lingers within the walls of the MCC, adorned with the banners of the Order’s esteemed Grand Masters, undoubtedly adds a sense of grandeur and reverence to the investiture ceremonies. This setting helps to evoke continuity and connection to the traditions and values upheld by the Order throughout its long and illustrious history. 

Ceremony of Investiture: 
The knighthood ceremony is a deeply emotional and momentous event in the life of a worthy candidate. The investiture holds significant historical and cultural importance, symbolizing recognition, honour and valour. The setting of the venue is designed and decorated according to the prestige of the event. 

At the fanfare sound the ceremony began with the Processional Entrance of the postulants in black tuxedos and the members of the Order in red capes, followed by priors, grand priors of the countries, government members, and ended with the Grand Knighting Officials led by the Master of Ceremony, Sir Norbert Abonyi, on the music of Mozart. This was followed by the Greeting of the Investing Sword, and the Saluting of the Flags while the Anthems of the Republic of Malta and the KMFAP were played.

In Perpetuam Rei Memoriam: 
According to our moral tradition, we always remember our deceased Knights and Great Predecessors, praise their achievements and pray for the health and recovery of our ill members, who can not be with us, while listening to the Ave Maria, composed by Giulio Caccini, performed by Lady Liza Veiga, a famous international soprano from Portugal. We enjoyed her extraordinary voice in other moments of the ceremony, as well. 

Several Acts: 
Appointments for Sir Alfred Galea, Sir Roland Gisler, Sir Michael Bock, Sir Jozef Stupar, Sir Károly Miklósi and Sir Sasha Vuk. Joyous news in 2023 – Congratulations: We are pleased to announce wonderful news and welcome the new-born children into the families of our knights. It is an outstanding reason to celebrate, and on this occasion we extend our wholehearted greetings to the families. May these little ones bring immense joy and happiness to their families and grow up to be a source of pride for their parents and the entire community. 
Warmest wishes and heartfelt congratulations to the proud parents:

  • to Sir Max Pomeranz, KCM and Mrs. Serena Alexandra Collins Pomeranz on the birth of their son – Philip Jeremiah Pomeranz – in July 2023 in Florida, USA, who is waited to be Squire of the Order, following the example of his family members, who are knights and dames 
  • to Sir Gordon Shephard and his wife, Cloudia, on the occasion of their daughter’s birth – Ana Shephard, a future Damsel of the Order 
  • to Lady Ivetta Gáspár on the birth of her daughter – Avibelle Sultana – on 5 July 2023, a future Damsel of the Order

Address of the Grand Master to the Postulants: 
Delivering a powerful and inspiring speech before the Investiture of the Postulants is always a crucial moment and a significant opportunity to set the tone, the sense of purpose, duty and honour in those who are about to be invested, to embrace their role as knights and dames with dedication and honour. The speech can be read here: 

Becsatolni a beszédet

After the speech the prie-dieu (kneeler) was placed to the stage, signalling the beginning of the most substantial part of the event: the Knighthood Ceremonial – Investiture of the Postulants. At the same time, the speaker of the ceremony asked some Dames and Knights to come forward and assist during the official act. 

The Speaker called the postulants in alphabetical order, one-by-one, to stand up and follow the Master of Ceremony for investiture. According to our traditions, the knighting took place in four parts, interrupted by short music pieces, sung by Ana Milenaria and played by Elaine Mercieca, pianist from Malta. Their performance was highly appreciated by the audience. 

At this solemn event, the knighting process was conducted by the Grand Master and the Lieutenant General, and the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta (KMFAP) received 17 new members on the recommendation of two members - Knights/Dames of the Order, who are considered as the Godfathers/Godmothers of the postulants. 
The newly invested knights/dames were presented with the Insignia of the Order, including the neck cross for gentlemen and bow for ladies, the red cape with the 8-pointed Malta Cross, and the official Grand Diploma. 

The very last moment of the knighting act was the investiture of two Squires to the Order of Malta: 
  • Timotej STUPÁR (Slovakia) – Godfather / Father: Sir Jozef Stupár 
  • Jack SHEPHARD (Malta) – Godfather / Father: Sir Gordon Shephard 

Advancements – Awards: 
As the final chapter of the ceremony, in accordance with the traditions of the Order, the Grand Master had the pleasure of giving awards and advancement of grade to those members, who had earned it with their remarkable work for the benefit of the Order and made a difference.

  • Sir Vecih OUDAH (Iraq) was upgraded to Knight Commander of Malta 
  • Sir Arif BEYREUTHER (Germany) was awarded with the membership of the Sovereign Order of Cyprus – as Knight of Sword and Silence 
  • Sir Samuel STAFFORD (Trinidad and Tobago) was awarded with the membership of the Sovereign Order of Cyprus – as Knight Commander of Sword and Silence 
  • A Letter of Thanks was presented to Mr. Mario Caruana, MCC, to thank and appreciate his professional and devoted work during our ceremonies at MCC 
Ball of Knights and Dames: 

The celebration with a gorgeous ball in the Grand Ballroom of the Excelsior Hotel was a magnificent conclusion to the very successful two-day event in honour of esteemed knights and dames, together with their families and friends, as well as VIP guests, whose presence created an atmosphere of friendship and celebration. The elegant evening look, featuring tuxedos and long dresses of the attendees added to the sophistication of the evening. The excellent buffet dinner and the festive ambience, accompanied by the lively tunes of the Maltese group: Speed of Sound, undoubtedly contributed to the joyous mood. It was delightful to see the ballroom filled with melodious sounds and guests enjoying themselves with dance and friendly conversation, creating a lively and enchanting atmosphere. The option of a Cigar Corner for the knights is a thoughtful touch, providing space for relaxation and camaraderie away from the main event. The evening was memorable, celebrating the distinguished members of the Order and fostering the relations among them. 

Dear New Knights and Dames, 
We congratulate you on the occasion of your investiture, a significant milestone in your life. May it serve as a catalyst for your personal and collective transformation. We are guided by the timeless principles that have fortified this Order for many generations. Embrace the challenges that lie ahead with unwavering determination. Remain resolute and focused, knowing that every challenge conquered brings us closer to achieving our aspirations. May your journey be filled with discovery, growth, and the fulfilment that comes from serving a great cause to make a difference. Together, let us strive for excellence, uphold the values of our Order and work tirelessly for the needy to bring about positive changes in the fabric of our society. 

The Summary Video of this ceremony in Malta 2023 can be found here, by clicking on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQCLRc6ccKU

We hope to meet you again at our ceremonies next year: in June 2024 in Chateau Bela, Slovakia and Hungary, then in September/October 2024 in Malta. 

Lady Anna Popper 
President of the International Organising Committee of the Magisterial House 


31 October 2023