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The World’s Smallest Country

Posted on Saturday, July 24, 2021
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AMAC Exclusive by Herald Boas

 

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics on Friday highlighted the incredible diversity of nations around the globe, as it does every two years. The world today contains more than 200 sovereign nations of varying sizes and populations. China and India each have more than a billion persons. A few countries have more than a hundred million each. Most have populations under 100 million. Then there are the very tiny nations, which survive mostly to please tourists, stamp and coin collectors, and, of course, their citizens.

This last group of small nations, or microstates, including Andorra, Monte Carlo, San Marino, Grenada, Liechtenstein, Vatican City, Nauru, Tuvalu, The Marshall Islands, St. Kitt & Nevis, The Seychelles, Antigua & Barbuda, and Palau, are mostly surviving old European principalities or recently independent island territories in the Caribbean Sea or the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Some are republics, while others are constitutional monarchies. Each has a population under 100,000.

Many consider Vatican City, with a population of 700 and an area of half a square kilometer, to be the world’s smallest country. That distinction, however, belongs to another nation.

The smallest truly sovereign place in the world is located in the upper floors of a villa in downtown Rome.

It’s a thousand years old, and has a very long name – Sovereign Military Order of Malta, or SMOM for short. (Its full name is actually longer – Sovereign Military Hospitalier Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta.)

The ground SMOM’s headquarters is built on is Italian. Most of the rooms occupied by SMOM are located on the building’s upper floors, making it the only country you enter by elevator!

SMOM has an official population of 3, but it is nonetheless responsible for one of the world’s largest humanitarian and disaster relief organizations with 13,500 members; 40,000 doctors, nurses, and paramedics, and 80,000 volunteers worldwide.

Known generally as the Catholic lay organization of the Knights of Malta, SMOM also has a fascinating history.

The history of SMOM can be traced back to 1048, when the Marine Republic of Amalfi obtained permission from the Caliph of Egypt to build a church, convent, and hospital in Jerusalem. The actual founding of the Order took place in 1099 when Brother Gerard made the hospital independent.

From then until 1291, SMOM was located in Jerusalem. After the Christians and crusaders were ejected, the Order moved briefly to Cyprus (1291-1319), then to Rhodes (1310-1523) and Malta (1530-1798), before finally settling in Rome in 1894. The Pope had formally recognized the Order in 1113, and its sovereignty was declared in 1753.

With the stated mission of assisting children, homeless, elderly, handicapped, the terminally ill, refugees, and lepers, as well as victims of natural disasters, epidemics, and war around the world regardless of religion or ethnicity, SMOM plays a major role in global humanitarian efforts. It has diplomatic relations with 110 countries, permanent observer status at the United Nations, and works closely with the International Red Cross.

SMOM’s 1.5 billion euro (about $2 billion) budget is funded by European governments, the U.N., the European Union, foundations, and private donors.

The leader of SMOM is the Prince and Grand Master who presides over the Order, which has three levels of membership. Until recently, its highest level had to have proof of noble origins, but that has now been waived. Membership is by invitation only.

Although it is a Catholic lay organization and has been recognized by the Vatican almost since its beginning, SMOM is independent of the Holy See. A brief exception to this occurred in 2016 when Pope Francis guided the Order through a leadership crisis.

SMOM now owns or operates only a few small properties, but the Order once ruled over the island of Malta and owned the Caribbean islands of St. Barthélemy, St. Christopher, St. Croix, and St. Martin. It now occupies Fort St. Angelo in the Republic of Malta by agreement with the Maltese Government.

When it ruled over Malta, it was a naval power, playing a major role in the victory over the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Since 1876, however, the SMOM military has been used only in humanitarian support. In 1947, it acquired an “air force” when Italy was forced to give up its large planes, and donated them to SMOM for humanitarian relief purposes.

Today, SMOM is headquartered in the Magistral Palazzo villa on the Via Conditti near the Spanish Steps in Rome, where it mints its own coins (scudos), issues its own stamps (in euros), and oversees a vast global relief effort.

For the world’s smallest country, apparently, size doesn’t matter.

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Van Robinson
Van Robinson
2 years ago

Neat and rare Information.

Bill on the Hill
Bill on the Hill
2 years ago

That was a good read for sure & a history going back to the 11th century…
To think here in America, we are presently or more aptly put, desperately trying to hold onto our Republic of a measly 245 years…
Benjamin Franklin was correct once again, ” Having a Republic is great, holding onto it is another matter “…
Bill on the Hill… :~)

WILD BILL T
WILD BILL T
2 years ago

Did you actually see the idiot salesman in the outdoor sporting sales center that wanted his microsecond of foolishness and confronted TUCKER CARLSON ???? What an embarrassing situation for tucker but being the courteous and loveing American citizen that he is calmly and with dignity excused himself from this RABID LEFTIST MARXIST hater of our great UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. GOD BLESS AMERICA

CoNMTX
CoNMTX
2 years ago

I haven’t watched one second of the olympics and don’t intend to watch one second. There’s got to be something better to do with my time even if I just sat and read the Dallas phone book. I cannot watch any sports any more because of the unAmerican, stupid, and creepy athletes. I can no longer stand the sight of them.

Brown
Brown
2 years ago

Love this info! Great article.

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