The Order is linked to the Holy See, but is itself a sovereign entity. The grand master is both head of a sovereign state and head of a religious order, and holds his office for life. He has the same rank as a Cardinal. He is elected from the approximately 40 Professed Knights, who have taken the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Fra’ Matthew was elected the grand master in 2008, after serving as the grand prior of England. He is only the second Englishman to be elected grand master.
Today, members of the Order are primarily dedicated to providing hospitaller and charitable support. The Order’s inspiring principles are summarised in the motto tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum: defence of the faith and care of the poor and the sick.
The Australian Association of the Order of Malta was formed in 1974. Members, male or female, are Catholics. Entry is by invitation.
In Victoria, the Order’s principal activity is as a partner with St Vincent’s and Outer East Association in the home based Palliative Care organisation known as Eastern Palliative Care (EPC). Caritas Christi is the base for an Eastern Palliative Care nursing centre.
Recent projects undertaken by the Order include the funding of taxi services to bring the 30 infirm and frail elderly to the Caritas Christi day centre, where they are provided with activities and lunch, support for a home in a Melbourne parish for asylum seekers and assistance to an East Timorese organisation that provides transport to school for disabled children.