Over centuries one of the principal obligations of membership of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George and in more recent times, the Royal Order of Francis I, has been charitable and humanitarian assistance. In recent years this has resulted in millions of euros of financial aid and charitable and humanitarian assistance having been given to adopted charities of the Order. The Constantinian Order and the Royal Order of Francis I undertake a diverse programme of charitable, hospitaller and humanitarian activities across the world. Knights and Dames also play an active role in raising funds for charities and similar organisations adopted both by the Grand Magistry in Rome, as well as through each delegation on a country by country basis.
Knights and dames on entering both Orders promise:
- To promote the spiritual and physical welfare of the sick and disabled, the poor, the homeless and the illiterate.
- To aid and protect them and contribute to their material and moral support.
- To establish institutions of religious charity and to attend to their needs.
- To co-operate with other agencies or institutions which engage in similar work.
- To do any and all things and engage in any and all activities which, in the judgement of the Grand Master and the Council of the Delegation may be necessary or proper to accomplish these objectives.
These obligations are at the core of everything the dynastic orders and its knights and dames undertake and stand for today. It is also the principal way in which such ancient orders of chivalry become more relevant to society at large.
Support for the homeless
In Great Britain and Ireland the efforts of the delegation are currently focused towards the homeless and three leading charities in this field, have been adopted. Since 2001 this has principally been directed at The Passage Homeless Centre in London and the St Thomas Fund in southern England. In June 2004, the De Paul Trust of Ireland, which offers support to the homeless in Ireland, was adopted for charitable purposes.
The Passage is one of Britains largest support centres for the homeless in London. Founded by the late Cardinal Basil Hume, the Orders delegation has supported and raised funds towards the important work it undertakes. In 2002, the then Grand Prefect of the dynastic orders, The Duke of Castro, together with HRH The Duchess of Castro, visited the centre and witnessed at first hand the work which The Passage undertakes.
For over sixteen years, the British and Irish Delegation has supported the St Thomas Fund, which offers assistance to the homeless across England and especially on the south coast. Her Grace The Duchess of Norfolk, is its President.
The De Paul Trust of Ireland, in conjunction with the City of Dublin, run the first wet centre for long term street drinkers and the homeless in Dublin’s Aungier Street.
The Orders pro-active role in cancer prevention and HIV treatment
The Constantinian Order and the Royal Order of Francis I internationally and nationally support major initiatives concerned with the prevention of cancer, as well as care for cancer victims. In March 2002 in Rome, the First Meeting on the Prevention and Treatment of Colon Cancer was launched by the Constantinian Order under the high patronage of Pope John Paul II, the President of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and the United European Gastroenterology Federation. The campaign aims to support and encourage researchers, increase public awareness of the illness and promote ultimate prevention.
His Eminence Mario Francesco, Cardinal Pompedda, Grand Prior of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order, chaired the Organising Committee. His Holiness Pope John Paul II (right) received the principal participants of the conference in a private audience held at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City including TRH The Duke and Duchess of Calabria.
The dynastic orders have also launched in February 2002 another major charitable and hospitaller programme in conjunction with the National Association against AIDS of the Campania region, and the Association of Wives of Italian Doctors of Naples.
The aim of the initiative is to raise much needed funds for the completion, in partnership with the Comune di Napoli, of the first Constantinian Home in the South of Italy for HIV-positive children. The creation of the first Constantinian Home in the Secondigliano district of Naples allows mothers and HIV-positive children to remain together during their treatment who up until this initiative would have been separated.
Hospitaller Assistance of the Order across the world
The Order’s hospitaller assistance has played an important role throughout the centuries, in the case of the Constantinian Order this can be tracked as far back as to the Crusades. The Order also played a prominent role in assisting the sick and injured during both the First and Second World Wars. Today, the dynastic orders financially supports and its members volunteer with the transportation and support of the sick and infirm to pilgrimage sites including Lourdes and most recently, in September 2002, to San Giovanni Rotondo – the tomb of the canonized Saint and capuchin friar, Padre Pio da Pietrelcina. During the latest pilgrimage, the Order supported a large group of disabled children from across Italy who visited the many of the sites associated with the stigmata saint and participated in numerous prayer sessions and masses. The latest pilgrimage took place under the personal patronage of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Castro and in the presence of the then Grand Prior, His Eminence Mario Francesco, Cardinal Pompedda.
In 2004, the Constantinian Order and the Carabinieri Corps of Italy jointly organised an important humanitarian mission to Nassiriyah in Iraq. This charitable activity in favour of the Iraqi people is part of the wider National Peacekeeping Military Operation Ancient Babylon of the Italian Military Forces in Iraq.
The Constantinian Order alone succeeded in donating medical and other equipment totalling more than €700,000 in an effort which was approved by HE The Hon Franco Frattini, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Minister Frattini in a message sent to the Order welcomed the co-operation with the Constantinian Order. The joint-operation was carried out under the lead of Constantinian knight Leonardo Albanesi, Major of the 7th Trentino Alto Adige Carabinieri Regiment and by Commander Arrigo Sabarbaro. The generous participation of so many knights and dames from Northern Italy represented the continuation of the Constantinian Order’s prominent role in humanitarian and hospitaller assistance. Shortly before the departure of the ship Romea’ a religious ceremony was held in Molfalcone harbour by HE Mgr Arnaldo Greco, Constantinian Chaplain.
The Constantinian Order regularly finances and donates ambulances to the care of the sick and infirm. The senior officers of the Grand Magistry, including TRH The Duke and Duchess of Castro, together with delegation officials also pay regular visits to hospitals and hospices around the world, which receive support from the dynastic orders. In Great Britain and Ireland for example, TRH The Duke and Duchess of Castro, paid visits to Ealing General Hospital in West London in November 2001 and to the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital in November 2002 with the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Cardinal Pompedda also visited the Dublin hospital in May 2004.
The Order’s cultural, educational and social initiatives
In the cultural field, the Constantinian Order supports numerous organisations, charities and institutions which carry out cultural and educational initiatives. By way of examples in March 2002 the dynastic orders financially supported the London Symphony Orchestra through a donation towards one of their initiatives which aims to restore an 18th century Hawksmoor church so that it can be used as a LSO music education centre. In Italy the Constantinian Order sponsors children to attend educational establishments including the Institute Santa Patrizia in Central Naples, which cares for the needy children in the city.
Internationally, the wife of the Constantinian Order’s Grand Prefect, HRH The Duchess of Calabria, in October 2002 joined up with HRH Princess Benedikte, sister of HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and jointly hosted a charity event in Rome for the Olave Baden Powell Society. Princess Benedikte of Denmark is the worldwide Patron of the Society and The Duchess of Calabria is Patron in Italy.
The Olave Baden Powell Society is a leading international organisation offering worldwide educational assistance to young people. It is a society that provides the core of essential funding and support for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). It is also a principle way of equipping more than 10 million young people, from all regions of the world, to go out and build a better future for themselves and for their communities.
In Belfast, Northern Ireland, the Constantinian Order supports educational and community projects such as the Forthspring Inter Community Group initiative which undertake much needed work on a local community level to foster relations between the divided communities in Northern Ireland. It is a multi-religious body incorporating Catholic, Protestant, Methodist and other faith communities and the Constantinian Order funds the salaries of a number of the community workers.
In Ireland, the Constantinian Order recently adopted Citywise, which operates in Dublin, Belfast, Limerick and Mullingar and Ballynacargy, and seeks to educate children and teenagers who have in many cases become dropouts or addicts and who mainly come from broken homes.
The Constantinian Order also funds the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro Life Group within the British Parliament, which is a cross-party, multi-faith group, striving to promote the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death. During the past year, the Group has held meetings with British Government Ministers on a variety of issues including the draft Mental Incapacity Bill and sex and relationship education. Other issues, which the All-Party Group are involved with, include the Lord Joffe’s Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill and opposing moves to liberalise the Abortion Act.