Both lay religious order of the Catholic Church and subject of international law, the Sovereign Order of Malta is today a complex medical, social and humanitarian aid structure operating on the six continents.
Its 13,500 members and over 150,000 volunteers, doctors and health-care workers form an intervention network that ranges from hospital activities to relief for victims of war or famine, to interventions in areas affected by natural disasters, to medical and social assistance, to the distribution of meals and basic necessities. The projects – carried out independently, or within the framework of agreements with governments and international agencies – are now being developed in 120 countries worldwide.
Founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century, the Order of Malta has spanned over nine centuries of history. Since 1834, its central seats of government are in Rome, guaranteed by extraterritorial rights.
The Order of Malta operates through 11 Priories, 48 national associations, an international relief agency, 149 diplomatic missions and representations, 33 national relief corps, as well as numerous hospitals, medical centres and specialized foundations. It does not pursue any economic or political ends and does not depend on any other state or government.
At a diplomatic level, the Sovereign Order of Malta maintains bilateral relations with 112 States and with the European Union. It has the status of Permanent Observer to the United Nations and its specialized agencies and has representatives to major international organizations. It is neutral, impartial and apolitical.