Frequently Asked Questions

Below are our most commonly asked questions.

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What is the Order of Malta?

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta is a lay religious order of the Catholic Church founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century and a sovereign subject of international law.

Today, the Order has more than 13,000 members in over 50 countries and conducts medical, social, and humanitarian projects in 120 countries.

The Order of Malta’s mission is summed up in its motto Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum: witnessing the Faith (tuitio fidei) and serving the poor and sick (obsequium pauperum).

What are the works of the Order?

The Order of Malta runs humanitarian, medical and social projects in 120 countries. It is especially involved in helping victims of armed aggression and natural disasters by providing medical and social assistance. The Order serves millions of persons each year and makes long-term commitments to serve the needy after the first wave of disaster relief agencies has come and gone.

It has social assistance programs to help the homeless in developed and developing countries, cares for people pushed to society’s fringes, including the disabled and elderly, and provides first-aid and medical care.

Where does the Order serve?

Through National Associations and partnerships, the Order has permanent operations in over 120 countries. Additionally, in recent years, the Order of Malta’s most significant relief operations have taken place in Kosovo and Macedonia, India, South East Asia (after the 2004 tsunami), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Haiti, the Philippines and Nepal.

The Order of Malta has also assisted the Syrian population fleeing regional conflict for nearly ten years and also runs operations in Iraq supporting internally displaced people. The Italian Relief Corps of the Order has led rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea while the Order of Malta’s entities along migration routes to northern Europe provide refugees with emergency aid.

How does one become a volunteer?

Volunteers of any faith are most welcome to work alongside our Knights and Dames. If you are interested in volunteering contact us at

Is the Order of Malta similar to the Knights of Columbus?

The Order of Malta is a lay religious order of men and women founded in the 11th century. The Knights of Columbus is an all-male fraternal service organization founded in 1882 by Fr. Michael McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut. It started out as a mutual benefit society and currently has over $100 billion of life insurance in force. The Knights of Malta have 13,500 knights and dames; the Knights of Columbus have nearly 2 million men.

Is the Most Venerable Order of St. John a part of the Order of Malta?

The Most Venerable Order of St. John is an order of chivalry created by her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1831. In some ways the Most Venerable Order is modeled after the Order of Malta and its traditions of service to the poor and sick. The two orders work together closely in the United Kingdom, Holy Land, and in Commonwealth countries.

Is the Order of Malta related to the Templars?

The Templars were exclusively a military religious Order in the Holy Land, founded a few decades after the Order of Malta, and were suppressed by Pope Clement V in 1312. Some of the Templars and a portion of their assets were transferred to the Order of Malta.

How is the Order governed?

The government of the Sovereign Order of Malta has a similar structure to state governments. However, it also includes specific features associated with its nature as a religious lay order, as well as particular terminology evolved from nine centuries of history.
The head of the Order is the Grand Master who governs both as sovereign and as religious superior, and is assisted by the Sovereign Council, which he chairs.

The Sovereign Council is elected for a term of six years and is made up of the Grand Commander (Responsible of religious and spiritual matters);
Grand Chancellor (Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Interior); Grand Hospitaller (Minister for Health and International Cooperation); Receiver of the Common Treasure (Minister for Finance), together with nine other members.

The life and activities of the Order of Malta are governed by its Constitution and its Code.

How is the Western Association governed?

The Board of Directors is responsible for setting the policies and approving the procedures of the Association. The management team is responsible for following those policies and procedures. The management team is led by the President as the head of the Association and who serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors. The President is assisted by the Western Association’s Executive Committee (including the Chancellor, Hospitaller, Vice Hospitaller, Treasurer, and Secretary) and over four dozen members of specialized committees.

In addition, the Western Association is divided into nine Locations (Colorado, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orange, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle) and eight Areas (Boise, Honolulu, Monterey, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Tucson). Each Location has a President, a Hospitaller, a Treasurer, and other officers. Each Area generally has a Convenor, Hospitaller, and Treasurer.

What is the international organization of the Order?

Today, the Order has 6 Grand Priories, 5 Subpriories and 48 National Associations. In the United States, the Order has three National Associations, the Western Association, based in California, the American Association, based in New York, and the Federal Association, based in Washington D.C.

How are the Order’s diplomatic activities conducted?

The Order of Malta is a subject of international law that exercises functions of sovereignty, recognized as such by more than 100 countries and by the European Union.

The Order maintains permanent observer missions at the United Nations (New York, Geneva, Paris, Vienna, Rome, Nairobi, Bangkok), and with the principal international humanitarian organizations. Diplomatic relations allow the Order of Malta to contribute timely and effective humanitarian aid in the event of natural disaster or armed conflict.

Due to its status as a neutral, apolitical and independent institution, and its humanitarian role, the Order of Malta also serves on an international level as a mediator of disputes between countries.

How are the Order’s activities financed?

Humanitarian activities in the Western Association are funded by its members and the public. Resources for the Order’s hospitals and medical activities outside of the U.S. usually receive significant governmental funding through national health and social systems. In developing countries, activities are often backed by grants from governments, the European Commission or other international organizations. At the same time, such international activities are also supported by significant donations or benefactors’ contributions to Order’s activities.

Where is the Order based?

The headquarters of the Order of Malta is the Magistral Palace, located on an entire city block at Via dei Condotti, 68 Rome 00187.

How many members does the Order have?

The Order of Malta is made up of more than 13,500 Knights, Dames and Chaplains. Next to them stand over 95,000 permanent volunteers and 52,000 employees, most of them medical personnel.

How does one become a member of the Order?

Membership in the Order of Malta is by invitation only. Each prospective member must be sponsored by an invested member. The sponsor, a Knight or Dame, mentors the candidate over one year of preparation and discernment, prior to receiving the approval of the Western Association leadership and the Grand Master and Sovereign Council in Rome, preceding his or her investiture into the Order. Only Roman Catholics with a distinguished record of service are eligible for admission. Membership in the Order is a serious commitment to serve the poor and to be a witness to the Faith for life.

What is an auxiliary member?

Auxiliary members are Roman Catholics who serve with the Knights and Dames but make only an annual commitment, which may be renewed.

What are the Knights of Justice?

Knights of Justice are vowed men who live as religious, taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and a vow to sacrifice one’s life in defense of the Faith.

What do we mean by saying that it is a religious order?

The Order started as a monastic community inspired by St. John the Baptist in Jerusalem in the second half of the 11th century. The Hospitallers ran a hospice providing care and shelter for pilgrims of any faith. When the first crusaders arrived in 1099, the Order had been at work for decades. In 1113, Pope Paschal II formally recognized the Order and placed it under the protection of the Holy See.

Still today, some members of the Order of Malta called Knights of Justice are religious under canon law, others have made the Promise of Obedience, pledging to follow Christian principles more profoundly while living in society. The Order of Malta’s 13,500 knights and dames are lay members, along with Catholic priest chaplains who provide spiritual guidance but are not involved in the governance of the Order.

All members are devoted to practicing Christian virtues and charity, and are committed to developing their spirituality within the Catholic Church and to collaborating in the medical and social works of the Order.

Is it a Military order?

The Order took on a military nature in the twelve century to protect pilgrims en route to and from Jerusalem and to defend the Christian territories in the Holy Land. The military functions of the Order continued in Rhodes and Malta for the next 600 years, as the Order maintained a naval fleet of ships in the Mediterranean Sea to protect against piracy The Order ceased to carry out a formal military role when it lost the island of Malta to Napoleon in 1798. Today the Order preserves its military history through its traditions.

Is it a Chivalrous order?

Beginning in the 12th century, the Knights of the Order belonged to Christian noble families of Europe. The Order maintains the values of chivalry and nobility of spirit as well as of families of noble tradition.

Why is the Grand Master of the Order also called “Prince”?

The Grand Master is called a prince because since the early 14th century the Order has exercised sovereign authority, first on Rhodes, then on Malta, and now in Rome. In 1607, Grand Master Wignacourt received the title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Today the Grand Master has the rank of cardinal in the Catholic Church, the only non-ordained cardinal. He does not participate in consistories with other cardinals.