State Military Order of Malta

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), also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's oldest surviving order of chivalry. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is headquartered in Rome, and is widely considered a sovereign subject of international law.

SMOM is the modern continuation of the original medieval order of Saint John of Jerusalem,[8] known as 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 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.

Today the order has about 13,000 members; 80,000 permanent volunteers; and 20,000 medical personnel including doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics in more than 120 countries.[3] 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.[3] 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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