41st Ceremony of Investiture of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem (KMFAP) between 17-18 July 2020 in Château Bela, Slovakia

The ceremony of investiture has always been a significant event in the history of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, Federation of the Autonomous Priories (KMFAP) as well as in the lives of the candidates. On this day, the name of each Postulant – by own merits – is included in the list of knights, kept in the golden book of the 972-year-old Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, which later became Order of Knights of Malta.
Emphasizing its importance and exceptional nature, the investiture is commonly organised in solemn circumstances and faithfully to the traditions. Over the years, KMFAP has maintained this tradition, therefore we have chosen again the magnificent Slovakian castle, Chateau Bela, as the venue of our event. The 41st Knighthood Ceremony was organised in excellent cooperation of the Hungarian and Slovak Grand Priories.
Although this year the circumstances – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – were very different from previous years, we took security measures and restrictions into account when preparing for the investiture, and asked participants to respect them throughout the ceremony for our common safety. Lady Dr. Mária Czellárikova was appointed Special Commissioner for Medical Safety of the State Ceremonial Organisational Committee, doing all possible in a very professional way to maintain the hygiene and discipline of the attendees (wearing mask, social distancing, regular hand washing, using hand sanitizers).

On the 17th July, a hot summer day, knights, dames, postulants and guests arrived one after the other with their families, relatives, friends to Chateau Béla – surrounded by an enormous, fresh park. After the registration and accommodation in the rooms they were greeted with a pleasant buffet lunch served at the Vinoteka.

The very first part of the 2-day event was the PRO-DEO State University (PDSU)Doctor Honoris Causa Ceremony at the Gobelin Room. The Rector Magnificus, in presence of the members of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Professors of PDSU, bestowed the honorary title to the following high-profile candidates with important scientific academic and entrepreneurial backgrounds:
- Senator Prof.h.c. Sir Wolfgang Steinhardt (Austria)
- Sir Szilveszter Tánczos (Hungary)

Day of Honour: 17th July 2020

At 17.00 o’clock began the General Chapter of Knights, meeting with the Postulants, in the Conference Hall, a tradition dating back to the knight’s distant past. The program of the one-and-a-half-hour meeting was as follows:
- Opening the meeting by Sir George Popper, Lieutenant General and Prime Minister – welcoming and introducing the leaders of the Order
- Brief greeting by the Grand Master
- General introduction of KMFAP and its institutions via a video presentation by Sir George
- Presentation on FEMERAID International Air Rescue Service by the Grand Master
- Report on KMFAP and FEMERAID actions against COVID-19 by the Grand Master
- Presentation on the humanitarian activities in Slovakia by Sir Branislav Ondrus
- Congratulations to the new Doctors - Ph.D. h.c. of PDSU
- Introduction of the Postulants one-by-one, by the Godfather or Godmother
- Handing over the Postulant Diplomas together with the “Code of Chivalry” and the 1 Tari coin in folder with Certificate
- Prior announcement of a new Appointment

The meeting was followed by the Watch of the Arms in the Hunting Room of the castle, which is a special and highly spiritual part of the procedure of becoming knight. This memorable session has always been very important for the Postulants – future members of the Order –, the role of which was that in the evening, before the investiture, they were prepared in all respects for the big event the next day. In the old times, while postulants cleaned their weapons and tidied their appearance: bathed and took clean clothes, they were spiritually completely attuned to the special experience awaiting them, in which only the privileged could partake. They rethought their past lives, actions, and – shrouded in thoughts, spiritually purified – waited for the next day, often awake until morning, knowing that from that day on their lives would change, and – in every moment of their lives – they had to be worthy of the chivalric idea with which they became one.

This time again, there was a brief contemplation and self-communion of the Postulants and the Grand Master presented the knightly requisites and symbols, used during the investiture, which the new knights would wear afterwards. Very important for them that the Grand Master always gives a detailed explanation about the history and signification of the traditions and the symbols, including the 8-pointed white cross known as the Cross of Malta, the major symbol of the Knights.

Following the traditions of the past, the evening was topped with a special dinner, so it happened now. The Official Banquet was held in the “Orangerie” – the main hall of the castle – where beautifully laid tables and walls decorated with the flags of the Order awaited the Postulants, the Knights and Dames of the Order and the guests. The dinner had a good atmosphere, offering delicious food and wine while live music was played.

Day of Investiture: 18th July 2020

In the morning, participants had free time for their own use. Meanwhile, the preparations and arrangements were very intense for the organisers – decoration of the imposing “Orangerie” hall, venue of the knighthood ceremony: with flags, flowers and chivalric symbols.
After lunch, everyone had to prepare for the upcoming ceremony and be ready on time. Men dressed in black Tuxido (Black Tie) and ladies in long dresses. Guests gathered slowly and could already listen to the nice live music while waiting for the start.

At 15.00 o’clock – following the fanfare and announcement of the Speaker – the 41st Knighthood Ceremony began with the ceremonial entrance with background music, under the guidance of the Master of Ceremony: first the postulants entered, followed by the dames and knights of the Order. Then, the arrival of different religious leaders of KMFAP, as well as Representatives of the Friendly Orders was announced.
After the Vice Ministers, State Secretaries and Ministers of our Government, the highest-ranking leaders and Grand investing officers of KMFAP closed the line:
• H.E. Sir Alexander Czellárik, GCKM – Slovakian Host and Grand Prior and his wife, Lady Mária
• H.G. Prof. George Popper, Knight Grand Collar – Lieutenant General, Prime Minister, Eminent Grand Prior of the Hungarian Langue and Executive Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Order of Cyprus
• HMEH Prince José, Knight Grand Collar – Grand Master of the Order, Head of the State and his wife, Princess Isabel

Finally, the knights, assisting the ceremony in different positions, marched into the hall, carrying the Swords of Knighting of the Order of Malta and of the Order of Cyprus, as well as all the National flags (Slovak Republic, Hungary, KMFAP, Sovereign Order of Cyprus), while participants were listening to the Slovakian, the Hungarian and the KMFAP anthems.

In his Welcoming speech, the Grand Master greeted all the guests and VIPs. Then the Speaker announced that during this very difficult period – when many countries had closed their borders due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic – representatives of 18 countries from 3 continents attended this event.

The live music program was performed by two young musicians from Budapest: Mr. Kristóf Svajcsik – guitar and Miss Zsófia Kristó – flute, again. And on this special occasion, we had the pleasure to listen also Maestro Vilmos Oláh, the great violinist, as one of the postulants, while waiting to be invested as Knight of Malta at this ceremony.

In Perpetuam Rei Memoriam: it is our duty to remember, so at every ceremony we commemorate the deceased knights and dames, and pray for the quick recovery and good health of our sick members, by announcing their names. Mascagni: Ave Maria gave an appropriate atmosphere for that, performed by Lady Lívia Ághova, famous soprano of the Prague Opera.

The Speaker announced a new initiative and conveyed the warmest congratulations of the Order, Wishing God’s blessings to the recently-born babies in seven KMFAP families of different origin, which was received with much cheer and applause by the audience. Thus, a new and very nice tradition was born.

Then we proceeded to Several Acts, when members delivering outstanding performance receive high recognition:
• Lady Dr. Mária Czellárikova (Slovakia) was appointed Special Commissioner for Medical Safety of the State Ceremonial Organisational Committee
• Sir Dr. András Niklós (Hungary) received the KMFAP Medal of Merit – Class Gold

• Lady Erika Macsári (Hungary) was awarded the Peace Cross with the Silver Star, given by the Founder of Lazarus Union, Senator Prof.h.c. Wolfgang Steinhardt PhD, Special Ambassador of Lazarus Union to the UN, General Plenipotentiary 

The Ceremony of Investiture began with a very important moment, the Grand Master’s Short Address to the Postulants. The highest leader of KMFAP explained in his speech that one of the most significant prerequisites of becoming a knight is human values. Being a knight is an honour – associated with grand responsibility – that changes the individual’s life. Work will begin after, and active participation in the humanitarian activities of KMFAP can be expected from all members of the Knight Order. 

Blessing of the Insignia:
After the speech, the Speaker called on the representative of the Board of Religious Counsellors and Interfaith Pluralism to bless the symbols and requisites of the Order, used during the investiture, presented by some knights and dames holding them in their hands.

Right after the great music, Puccini: Tosca’s Prayer by Lady Lívia, and placing the prie-dieu to the stage the Knighting of the Postulants began.
According to our tradition, the ceremony was organised with the assistance of numerous KMFAP officials and members. Our Order has preserved also the tradition that each postulant has a godfather or godmother, who recommended the candidate to be knight or dame of the Order and who takes responsibility for the respective person. The meaningful chivalric symbols – the wearing of which give spiritual “charge” and strength and contribute to the formation of the knight’s identity – are extremely important for the members of the Order:
• The most important is the White Maltese Cross – symbol of love, faith and charity that serves as a shield, protects and beatifies, its eight points represent eight happiness, and the knightly virtues.
• The Red Cape – symbol of knightly brotherhood that is proudly worn by the knights and dames of the Order at any official events.
• The Sword of the Inauguration – symbol of moral force, power, peace and justice.
• The Spur, with which the kneeling postulant’s heel is touched – reminiscent of the knights’ riding past.

This time 6 worthy postulants – 5 new Knights and 1 Dame – were admitted to the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, Federation of the Autonomous Priories (KMFAP) under their merits and human qualities.

While the staff members changed the KMFAP sword of knighting and flag to the ones of the Order of Cyprus, and the blue capes with red 8-pointed cross and the neck-crosses were prepared, the Speaker announced the Ceremony of Investiture of the Sovereign Order of Cyprus also known as the Knights of Sword and Silence.

H.G. Sir George Popper, Executive Grand Chancellor of the Order of Cyprus delivered his speech, introducing briefly this very elite chivalric order, being the Military Branch of KMFAP. This time 2 worthy postulants were invested and became Knights of Sword and Silence.

From now on the salutation “Sir” is coming to all the newly invested knights, and the dames have the right to use the title of “Lady” – attached to first names (given names), as the Grand Master also called the new knights and dames for the first time after their inauguration, while the fraternal embrace was received.

Children can also join the Order, whose parents – at least one of them – are members: in this case, they are given the titles Squire, or Damsel with their investiture. This time – as last act of the ceremony – two boys were invested to Squires of Malta.

At the end of the ceremony the Speaker expressed the gratitude and thanks on behalf of the supreme leaders of the Order to the Knights and Dames, who contributed with their devoted and professional work to the success of the 41st Ceremony of Investiture.

At last, in a very special moment we could observe the new knights and dames sitting in the front rows – wearing the red Cape of Malta with the white 8-pointed cross, and the blue Cape of Cyprus with the red cross. By this the knighthood ceremonial came to an end, and the participants – following the hierarchical rules of the Order, and on the sound of music – marched out to the beautiful park, where the new knights and dames received congratulations and the official photo session took place.

The two-day event was topped by the Gala Party starting at 19.30 o’clock in the beautiful salons of the Chateau, with music and dance, celebrating these memorable days and very emotional ceremony of investiture.

10th August 2020