The International Legal Status of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta

in International Community Law Review
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The Order of Malta is an entity which established its own states on Rhodes (1310–1522) and Malta (1530–1798). Since 1834, it has been located in Rome. Today, the Order is universally regarded as a subject of international law. The Order exercises right of legation and ius contrahendi. It still is not a primary, i.e., sovereign, subject of international law. Paradoxically, it is its distinguishing feature, i.e., being a religious order that prevents it from being genuinely sovereign. Sovereignty means independence from any external power. In the case of any order of the Roman Catholic Church, this is absolutely impossible. The Order’s Grand Master can be elected only from among religious in terms of canon law who have made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and is fully subordinate to the Pope. Yet the Order undoubtedly is a secondary subject of international law whose status is determined by its recognition by primary subjects.




Sozański, supra note 5, pp. 66–67.


Sozański, supra note 5, pp. 69–70.


Sozański, supra note 5, p. 69.


Sozański, supra note 5, p. 72. See also Noel Cox, ‘The Acquisition of Sovereignty by Quasi-States: The Case of the Order of Malta’, 6 (1–2) Mountbatten Journal of Legal Studies (2002) pp. 31–32; Francesco Gazzoni, Ordine di Malta (1979) p. 39.


Sozański, supra note 5, pp. 74–75.


Gazzoni, supra note 18, p. 15; Michel de Pierredon, Histoire politique de l’Ordre Souverain de Saint–Jean de Jerusalem de 1789 a 1955 (1963) p. 7 et seq.; Sozański, supra note 5, pp. 163–164.


Sozański, supra note 5, p. 81; Pezzana, supra note 24; De Pierredon, supra note 21, p. 41 et seq.


Pezzana, supra note 24, p. 27. For more on the process before the Cardinalitial Tribunal see also Tadeusz Breza, Spiżowa Brama [The Bronze Gate] (1968) pp. 259–266 and 504–519, and Sozański, supra note 5, pp. 85–86.


Marrocco Trischitta, supra note 23, p. 42; Mielnik, supra note 27, p. 140; Monaco, supra note 17, p. 7 et seq.; Sozański, supra note 5, p. 104.


Mielnik, supra note 27, p. 140.


Bar, supra note 2, pp. 72–73. The author makes this comment referring to the Code of Canon Law of 1917. (Codex Iuris Canonici, Pii X Pontificis Maximi iussu digestus, Benedicti Papae XV auctoritate promulgatus, in “Acta Apostolicae Sedis”, 9 [1917], II, pp. 3–321). The same norm was retained in Can. 120 § 1 of CIC/1983.


Sozański, supra note 5, pp. 274–275.


Sozański, supra note 5, p. 273.


Lindblom, supra note 44, pp. 370–371.


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