The Holy See

Capital Vatican City

Time Zone CET (GMT+1)

Country Code 39

ccTLD .va

Currency Euro

Land Area 0.44 sq km

Population 836

Language Latin, Italian

Major Religion Roman Catholicism

Key Data

Notable Public Figures

Francis I - Jorge Mario Bergoglio,

Pietro Parolin,
Cardinal Secretary of State

Giovanni Angelo Becciu,
Substitute for General Affairs

Paul Richard Gallagher,
Secretary for the Relations with States

Antoine Camiller,
Undersecretary for the Relations with States

Luciano Suriani,
Delegate for Pontificial Representations

Peter Brian Wells,
Assessor for General Affairs

José Avelino Bettencourt,
Head of Protocol

Domenico Giani,
Chief of Vatican Gendarmerie

The Knights of Malta and The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), commonly known as the Knights of Malta, is an original Crusader order founded around the year 1099. Key details about SMOM-Balkan relations are provided in a special appendix to the book. Its current activities in the Balkans are of great interest to analysts and laymen alike.The Vatican challenges in the Balkans Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and beyond


The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is one of the most important, though least-mentioned of Catholic entities in the Balkans. The Maltese Order has been much-maligned by conspiracy theorists interested in the Vatican’s more lurid historical aspects. Nevertheless, its charitable work in the region (and elsewhere) today seems quite benign, and is generally beneficial for local communities.

However, the SMOM also uses its status as an independent sovereign subject under international law to play a role in regional diplomacy and affairs, though it keeps a very low profile in the region, and is only very rarely mentioned in public discourse.

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The one exception to this, over the years, has been the role of the Knights of Malta in Montenegro. As discussed in detail in the book, the SMOM has had an overriding fascination with the country as it is the current owner of several ancient Christian relics once owned by the Knights- whose progenitors looted them from Constantinople during the perfidious Fourth Crusade of 1204.

The efforts of the Knights of Malta to reclaim these relics have taken unbelievable twists and turns since the 1990s, involving political ‘persuasion’ and other means. However, as of 2012 the items in question have been declared a national treasure and it appears that, barring divine intercession, the relics will stay in Montenegro.

In general, we can expect a continuing robust role for the Knights of Malta in the Balkans in years ahead. Along with its charitable endeavors, the group is able to leverage its status as a de-facto state entity to play a key role in execution of international policies that allow the Vatican to harmonize efforts with the EU on say, immigration and refugee issues in the Eastern Mediterranean. The exclusive membership and many political and business connections of SMOM make this one of the most powerful, yet least-known, religious institutions in the Balkans today.

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