A special investiture ceremony took place in London on 7 June to mark the formal exchange of honours between the Constantinian Order and Colombia.
The current and 59th Grand Master of the Constantinian Order, HRH The Duke of Castro, presented the Grand Cross with Gold Star to the Colombian Head of State, HE Mr Juan Manuel Santos Calderón.
This award was granted to President Santos for his ‘significant and longstanding contribution to peace and reconciliation in Colombia and in recognition of his faith inspired contribution to the alleviation of poverty and its associated problems’.
Mrs María Clemencia Rodríguez de Santos, First Lady of Colombia, also received the insignia of a Dame Grand Cross with Gold Star in recognition of her ‘longstanding and significant contribution to charitable and humanitarian endeavour in Colombia with special reference to the improvement of early childhood welfare, her response to those affected by the 2010-2011 severe flooding and other social programmes that she has championed”.
President Santos said: "I am deeply honoured upon receiving the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. I gratefully receive this decoration, granted to me by one of the world’s most ancient and recognised orders, not in a personal capacity, but on behalf of 47 million Colombians who are building, day by day, a fairer and more prosperous country. Colombia recognises the Constantinian Order as an honourable institution which treasures the nobility and knowledge of centuries of history, but which properly promotes humanitarian, charity and spiritual activities. Its work in promoting the understanding between the world’s religions is, without a doubt, preciously valuable for the world today".
The Archbishop of Cardiff, The Most Reverend George Stack, offered the Opening Prayer and the Order’s Delegate Anthony Bailey and the Vice-Delegate, Field Marshal Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, delivered speeches.
During the ceremony President Santos decorated the Duke of Castro and the Duchess of Castro, and the Grand Prior Cardinal Renato Raffele Martino with the Grand Cross of the Order of San Carlos in acknowledgement of the considerable and longstanding religious, charitable, humanitarian and inter-religious work of the Order throughout the world.
British Delegate Mr Anthony Bailey received the Grand Officer of the Order of San Carlos in recognition of his international interfaith and educational activities and Mr William Jeffcock who is active for the Order in its charitable projects in Colombia received the Commander grade.
This special ceremony, which took place at 45 Millbank London SW1, was attended by over 200 personalities from the world of faith, government, business, politics, diplomacy, culture and the arts. It was jointly hosted by the Order's Delegation in Great Britain and Ireland and the Colombian Embassy in Britain.
This event formed part of President Santos’s wider visit to Britain during which he was received by The Prince of Wales and Prime Minister David Cameron. The visit also followed the President’s visit to Pope Francis in Vatican City last month during which Colombia’s first saint, Mother Laura Montoya, was canonised.
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