Ambassador di Luca (SMOM): “I will continue to promote the combination of sports and social engagement.”

After 12 years, Ambassador Alberto di Luca is no longer going to be at the helm of the Belgrade chancery of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and will assume diplomatic representation in the Principality of Monaco. During this time, he has seen the country change and the Order of Malta significantly boost its presence in the country and especially in its own activities dedicated to those in need of assistance and health care. So many projects have been implemented, but there is nothing to detract from the fact that even more ambitious initiatives are planned along the Monaco-Belgrade axis.

Ambassador di Luca, how much has Serbia transformed over these 12 years? How have the demands conveyed to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta changed too?

One of the most obvious signs of the change taking place in Serbia is real estate development where certainly Belgrade takes the lion’s share. Relations between Serbia and the Order of Malta, while still excellent, have been further improved thanks to the signing of two important agreements with the government – the humanitarian one and the postal one. But I have also seen a great change in the Serbian Orthodox Church, perhaps also by virtue of some initiatives implemented together (I am referring to support to the Sveta Petka Institute in Izvor).

What will you bring with you from this extensive experience in Serbia?

I will always have fond memories for the country and population who, after a brief period of mistrust, welcomed the Sovereign Order of Malta and me personally in a loving and cooperative way.

Could you tell us an anecdote or a story that particularly affected you during your tenure in Serbia?

In the weeks following the flood that particularly affected Obrenovac and Šid in 2014, we also received appeals for cooperation. Back then, we were perhaps little known in Serbia. We were asked to provide aid of different kinds, but the request was too general. We came up with the idea of sending out a one-of-a-kind invitation to children to express their needs – “Make a wish of the Order of Malta”, so to speak. Almost 4,000 letters arrived. Some asked for a white horse or a trip to Disneyworld, but most of them asked for things that were heartwarming. Immediately we took action to search for funds, which predominantly came from the Principality of Monaco. From today’s perspective, I would say that this was a twist of fate.

In Bač, on Friday, June 9, 2023, in the presence of Serbian Minister of Human Rights, Social Dialogue and Minorities, Tomislav Žigmanov, President of the Croatian National Council, Ms. Jasna Vojnić, Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Subotica Msgr. Ferenc Fazekas, the secretary of the Subotica Diocese, Ms. Ivica Radak, and the diplomatic staff of the Embassy of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Belgrade. The multi-sports court, part of a larger project that entails building the Paul VI Meeting House in the Catholic parish of St. Paul in Bač, was inaugurated. In 1234, this small town in northern Serbia was home to the Knights of St. John (now the Sovereign Order of Malta) who built the first hospital in this part of the world. Pictured above (from the left) – Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Subotica, Msgr. Ferenc Fazekas, Ambassador Alberto di Luca, Serbian Minister of Human Rights, Social Dialogue and Minorities, Tomislav Žigmanov, and head of the Association of Croatian Minorities, Ms. Jasna Vojnić.

What does it entail to engage diplomatically in the protection of human rights, providing access to health care and ensuring food supply security at a time when international tensions jeopardize these rights even in areas where they seemed, at least partially, to have been respected?

It is difficult, increasingly difficult. Maintaining balance and seeking solutions is not easy. Our almost thousand years of experience is of great help to us and we are always willing to help others.

Monte Carlo has been chosen as a residence by many athletes and their agents. Could you tell us, as a world champion in powerboating, how can the world of sports support the values and initiatives of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta?

I am currently in Monaco doing this interview. Seeing sports champions such as Novak Djokovic or Charles Leclerc (I mentioned these two because of my passion for tennis and Formula 1) in the street here or at a restaurant sitting at a table close to yours is quite normal. One of the most important football agents in the world, the late Mino Raiola, together with his partner Raffaella Pimenta, were, here in the Principality, the creators of the “Make a Wish” to build a multi-sport court in Bač, northern Serbia. Sports, like culture, are the fertile ground for the healthy development of the younger generation. And when help is needed, sport often sides with the Order of Malta. Even in Monaco, indeed, and especially “from” Monaco!

Do you have any goals or dreams that you intend to accomplish during your new engagement in the Principality of Monaco?

There is an association of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Monaco which in a few months will celebrate its first 50 years in the Principality. His Royal Highness Prince Albert II is its member. While in Serbia my first thought was what to do in the country as a representative of the Order of Malta, here perhaps I can think about doing something in cooperation with our association.

Perhaps in favour of Serbia?

The first love is never forgotten, even in diplomacy. I will certainly try!

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