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Letter - Prince Grand Master
HSH Nicholas F.S. Papanicolaou GB.GCSJ(H)
Dear Knights and Dames,
This has been a challenging year for us all.
The environment for charitable organizations has been difficult, especially in the United States with the uncertainty surrounding the presidential elections and the continuing favorable tax treatment of donations made to organizations such as ours.
During the last year, our Order has, nonetheless, managed to make charitable donations worth more than US$ 2 million from its headquarters, in addition to the various charitable programs that are supported by each of our many Grand Priories and Priories in their local countries. We have donated funds for feeding the rural poor in the USA, for helping victims of Hurricane Sandy in the States of New York and New Jersey, and donated medical supplies and medicines to persecuted Christians in northern Iraq and other places. Cumulatively over the last five years our Order has made donations of cash and medical products worth more than US$ 40 million.
The situation with the trademark infringement and false advertising case brought against our Order’s Grand Priory of Florida by the Vatican-recognized Order of Saint John (SMOM) has been winding down. SMOM launched an appeal in Federal Court in Miami against the decision they lost to us in the Federal District Court last year. The Appeal Court rendered its decision in September 2012, and upheld the lower court’s decision that SMOM and our Order share the same history and that no false advertising has taken place. The Appeal Court restored SMOM’s four trademarks in the USA, which had earlier been cancelled by the District Court on the ground that they had been fraudulently obtained.
Our Order’s trademark in the US, consisting of the double headed eagle holding the cross of Malta, was never in question.
We are not opposed to SMOM’s regaining of its trademarks, as they were not prejudicial to ours, and they are entitled to have their own.
The Appeal Court decision now makes it unchallengeable that, as at this time, only our Order and SMOM have been found by a competent Court in the USA to share the same history prior to 1798 AD, when the original Order left Malta and the splintering of that Order into many offshoots began. The Appeal Court decision effectively signals that our Order and SMOM both have a creditable claim as descendants of the original Order which was, in any event, founded as an Orthodox-controlled Order in 1048 AD in Jerusalem.
Interestingly also, research associated with and subsequent to the trial demonstrates that the so-called cross of Malta was first used, long before the creation of the Order in 1048 AD, by early Christian communities living in the Arabian Peninsula. Excavations conducted under the auspices of Heidelberg University in Sir Bani Yas (modern-day Abu Dhabi) have revealed stone carvings of the so-called cross of Malta dating back to the 8th century AD or earlier. These excavations now require that SMOM revise its version of history which states that it was first to design the cross of Malta, and which have possibly contributed to its ill-advised legal claims of false advertising and infringement.
We are glad to put this litigation behind us as we always considered it unseemly for two creditable Christian charity organizations to be involved in such controversy. We express here the hope that SMOM will now, like us, get back to the real mission, that of helping the poor and needy and of assisting Christians who are under persecution because of their religion.
As ever, our Order is governed by the exhortations of James, specifically James 1:27 and James 2:14, which state:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (NKJV), and
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (NKJV)
We complete this year with our gala dinner and Investiture in Palm Beach, Florida this month. On this occasion we make special remembrance of prince Paul Romanoff-Ilyinski, former Mayor of Palm Beach, who was a Knight Commander in our Order from 1958 to his passing in 2004.
May God bless you and Merry Christmas to you all!