The Sovereign Order of Malta was founded in 1048 in Jerusalem to serve the vulnerable and sick. Today the Order has 40 000 employees working in 120 countries. Together with its 13 500 members it provides aid for over 15 million disabled, sick or needy persons regardless of their origin, religion or political belief. Ambassador Manfred L. Mautner Markhof is one the highest representatives of the Order and has been instrumental in the expansion of the Order’s activities in the Baltic States.
Ambassador H.E. Mag. Manfred L. Mautner von Markhof, 21 November 2023
The Sovereign Order of Malta is the world’s oldest humanitarian organization and among the most venerable institutions of Western and Christian civilization. Established in Jerusalem in the 11th century, it boasts an extensive history of serving the vulnerable and the sick. Today, the Order is active in 120 countries, providing care through its medical, social, and humanitarian works.
A significant expansion of the Order’s efforts has been into the Baltic countries, which gained independence following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.
Activities in Lithuania
The Order’s humanitarian aid to the Baltic states began in Lithuania, the largest of the three (with a current population of 2.7 million), where approximately eighty percent of the populace identifies as Roman Catholic.
Humanitarian assistance to Lithuania commenced in 1990 with aid convoys sent to Lithuanian social care and medical institutions by the Order’s German Relief organization, “Malteser Hilfsdienst”.
Lithuanian Maltesers and Ritters of the Order of Malta with after Promise ceremony with H.E. Bishop Rimantas Norvila, Vice President of the Lithuanian Bishops Conference.
Following the Soviet Union’s collapse and Lithuania’s independence in 1991, the Order initiated the establishment of the Relief Organization of the Order of Malta in Lithuania (MOPT) and established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Lithuania in 1992.
The Order of Malta Relief Organisation in Lithuania (MOPT) now unites approximately 2000 volunteers across 44 cities and towns. Lithuanian Maltesers offer aid to various vulnerable societal groups: the elderly living alone, children from socially disadvantaged families, individuals with disabilities, and refugees.
MOPT cares for 2320 elderly individuals in 44 locations, providing comprehensive, regular assistance. The most vulnerable receive hot meals delivered in thermoses twice a week, while others receive weekly grocery packages through the “Meals on Wheels” program. MOPT also operates a care home named after St. John the Baptist and 6 senior day-care centers.
MOPT (Order of Malta Relief Organisation’s in Lithuania) Children day care center in Kaunas (Lithuania).
Additionally, MOPT manages 13 Children’s Day Care Centers, daily supporting 348 children from families grappling with financial and social difficulties, and it provides assistance to individuals with disabilities.
Help to Refugees
A cornerstone of the Order of Malta’s work worldwide has always been aiding refugees, the internally displaced, and migrants.
Since the start of the Russia Ukraine conflict on 24 February 2022, Lithuanian Maltesers have been offering comprehensive assistance to Ukrainian war refugees.
In the conflict’s early days, Maltesers established a refugee registration center at the border with Poland and a hotline in the capital to provide information about accommodation, medical and veterinary services, essential hygiene kits, phone cards, and updates on relatives.
To date, Lithuanian Maltesers operate 11 help desks for war refugees in various cities to assist with integration issues such as taxes, accommodation, employment, schooling, and other domestic matters. They have registered 23 745 instances of aid to those arriving from Ukraine. MOPT has also facilitated the integration of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Belarus, and other countries.
“Upon commencing my mission in Lithuania, I realized the profound importance of spirituality in the Order’s social activities and services,” says Mag. Manfred L Mautner Markhof, former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Order of Malta to the Republic of Lithuania (2018–2023). “We are not merely social services providers; our historical and spiritual mission is much broader. The Order of Malta always remains true to its basic founding principle: testify the Faith.”
The Ambassador notes that Lithuanian Maltesers (MOPT) engage in various spiritual activities, such as pilgrimages to Lourdes, recollection for youth, etc., but he wanted to do more and has uniquely contributed to this mission by sponsoring the preparation and publishing of an “Order of Malta Prayer Book,” which has become an important spiritual guide for every Lithuanian Malteser.
Order’s Activities in Latvia
The Order of Malta established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Latvia in 1995. Presently, the Order of Malta Relief Organization in Latvia (Maltas Ordena Palidzibas Dienests) provides social services in three cities: Riga, Saldus, and Liepaja.
Latvian Maltesers group photo.
The Latvian branch regularly supports approximately 150 Ukrainian refugee families, offers social assistance to a number of long-term beneficiaries in Riga, delivers warm meals to 80 elderly individuals in their homes in Saldus, and operates a social center in Liepaja in partnership with the Bishop of Liepaja. The Order of Malta Relief Organization in Latvia currently employs eight staff members and is supported by 25 volunteers.
Diplomatic Relations with Estonia
Estonia was the last of the Baltic countries to establish diplomatic relations with the Order of Malta, doing so in 2021, with Mag. Manfred L Mautner Markhof appointed as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Order of Malta to the Republic of Estonia.
“Estonia differs markedly from Lithuania, where I previously served,” the Ambassador remarks. “The Catholic community in Estonia is quite small, numbering around 6000 adherents. Nevertheless, the people here are amicable, and I am encouraged by the progress we have made so far.”
According the Ambassador, two of the Order’s recent significant achievements in Estonia include the establishment of the “Order of Malta Foundation” in May 2023 and the inauguration of the Order’s Embassy in Tallinn on 29 June 2023.
Order of Malta Foundation in Estonia
The newly established foundation in Estonia began its engagement with a parasports weekend for disabled children in Kääriku, in partnership with the Estonian Paralympic Committee. The event allowed children and youth to explore various sports, with 18 participants with physical and visual impairments.
Parasports weekend for the disabled children in Kääriku, Estonia.
The Foundation also sponsored a trip for Estonian Young Maltesers to Germany for a Pentecost camp in Nunkirchen and to the World Youth Day in Lisbon.
Since October 2023, the Order of Malta Estonia volunteers have been conveying a message of hope, providing tea, coffee, sandwiches, and cake to those in need at the Missionaries of Charity’s humanitarian center in Tallinn.
This is done in close cooperation with the Sisters of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Order in Estonia also organizes gatherings and agapes at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Tallinn.
“As in Lithuania, I take Order’s spiritual mission in Estonia very seriously,” says the Order’s Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia. “Fortunately, I have the robust support of the Apostolic Nuncio to the Baltic States, Archbishop Dr. Antun Peter Rajic, whom I know from my time in Lithuania, and the Apostolic Administrator of the Estonian Catholic Church, Bishop of Tallinn H.E. Philippe Jean-Charles Jourdan.”
Ambassador Mag. Manfred L Mautner Markhof sees in Estonia a fertile ground for the Order’s more than 900 years old motto, “Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum” (upholding and witnessing the faith and serving the poor and the sick).
It is a mission that weaves the past with the present, a mission that defies the transient and embraces the eternal.