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Knights to join the assault on poverty in Brighton and Hove
They were traditionally warrior monks who tended to sick and injured Christian pilgrims.
But 900 years since they were officially recognised in the midst of the crusades, the Knights of Malta are now setting their sights on Brighton.
After providing humanitarian help in war zones, earthquakes and floods, the order’s new focus is people hit by rising poverty and homelessness in the economic crisis.
The Catholic organisation, which is different from the more familiar Order of St John, plans to open mobile soup kitchens and homeless shelters across Europe.
In Brighton, coordinator for the companions of the order Jamie O’Meara is currently in the early stages of putting together a group of volunteers to help out with the city’s existing soup runs.
He said: “Nothing has got going yet, but it is our intention to try and get involved with one of the existing soup runs.”
The order has previously set up a soup kitchen in London.
Mr O’Meara, who used to volunteer with St Anne’s Day Centre which supports the city’s homeless, said: “In an ideal world we would like to do something similar down here, but we don’t have the physical resources.
“It worked well in London so the order has taken the view that it wants to encourage more involvement in similar things across the country.”
He added: “The whole purpose of the order is to care for the sick and elderly.
“We already run a care home in Arundel but we want to get involved in more local projects.”
Earlier this week Philippa Leslie, the British spokeswoman for the order, told former Argus journalist Nick Squires, now The Telegraph’s correspondent in Rome: “We’re adapting to current necessities, as we have done for a thousand years.”
Albrecht Boeselager, a senior member of the order who carries the title Grand Hospitaller, added: “We are observing with great concern the fact that the economic crisis is leading to greater numbers of unemployed, more homeless and more people falling through the social net.
“The number of people who come to our soup kitchens and medical clinics is increasing dramatically. In the 27 nations of Europe, there are now 26 million people out of work.
“We’re establishing a stronger presence in Britain than ever before. Until now our main activity in the UK was to run homes for the elderly.”
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