Sovereign Military Order of Malta

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The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (Italian: Sovrano Militare Ordine Ospedaliero di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme di Rodi e di Malta) (known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta [SMOM], Order of Malta or Knights of Malta for short) is a Roman Catholic order based in Rome, Italy. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is widely considered a sovereign subject of international law.[2]

It takes its origins from the Knights Hospitaller, a group founded in Jerusalem about 1050 as an Amalfitan hospital to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, it became a Catholic military order under its own charter. Following the loss of Christian held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims, the Order operated from Rhodes (1310–1523), and later from Malta (1530–1798), over which it was sovereign.

Although this state came to an end with the ejection of the Order from Malta by Napoleon, the Order as such survived. It retains its claims of sovereignty under international law and has been granted permanent observer status at the United Nations.[3] SMOM is considered to be the main successor to the medieval Knights Hospitaller.

Today the order has about 12,500 members; 80,000 permanent volunteers; and 20,000 medical personnel including doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics. The goal is to assist the elderly, handicapped, refugeed, children, homeless, those with terminal illness and leprosy in five continents of the world, without distinction of race or religion.[4] In several countries—including France, Germany and Ireland—the local associations of the Order are important providers of first aid training, first aid services and emergency medical services. Through its worldwide relief corps—Malteser International—the Order is also engaged to aid victims of natural disasters, epidemics and armed conflicts.


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